World Communion Sunday
This year, October 1 is World Communion Sunday. According to Wikipedia, World Communion Sunday “is a celebration observed by several Christian denominations, taking place on the first Sunday of every October, that promotes Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation. It focuses on an observance of the eucharist.” Apparently, the tradition began in 1934 at a Presbyterian Church in the United States, and, in 1940, the Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches), endorsed World Communion Sunday and began to promote it to Christian churches worldwide. World Communion Sunday is a time when Christians in every culture break bread and pour the cup. On that day, they remember that they are a part of the ‘whole body of believers’.
The challenging part is that the ‘whole body of believers’ is very diverse in what they believe. Though Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, it is apparent that not all Christians believe the same thing. There are thousands of denominations (some say 30,000+) and even within the same denomination, there are many differences of opinion. We can spend huge amounts of time debating, discussing and even fighting over the differences.
On this World Communion Sunday, it may be worth taking a closer look at the word “communion.” According to The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, the word “communion” has several other meanings beside the Eucharist. The first two definitions are ‘1. an instance of sharing, esp thoughts or feelings: fellowship’ and ‘2 participation: a sharing in common.’ Maybe we can park our differences in beliefs, and instead look at ways in which we can be in communion, ways in which we can share in common.
The past month has highlighted for us that there is much need for sharing, regardless of our religious or non-religious affiliation. Hurricanes, earth-quakes, floods, droughts, forest fires plus many other disasters are occurring all around the world. People are left without food, water and shelter. Many have died. There is a call to all of us to help in whatever way we can, to be in communion with one another, regardless of who we are or where we live.
I don’t believe that being in communion has to be limited to being in communion with other human beings. Within the church, we are also currently in Creation Time, an annual time set apart for considering what nature is saying to us. Maybe it’s time to consider how we have abused the words from Genesis 1: 28. “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” It is increasingly being revealed how badly our human ‘dominion over’ nature and creation has turned out. We are facing a looming crisis. What if we approached World Communion Sunday 2017 as an opportunity for changing our thinking on ‘dominion over’ and instead considered what it means to ‘be in communion with’ the earth, living in respect with nature and working with nature for the betterment of both nature and humanity. We remember, after all, that nature can do just fine without us. We, however, cannot survive without nature.
On this World Communion Sunday 2017, as we celebrate sharing the bread and the cup, may we look beyond the doors of our churches to discover new ways for being in communion not only with all people but with all of nature as well.