Sunday, October 1 is World Communion Sunday when we celebrate our unity in Christ with our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world. It was first celebrated in 1933 at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh where I was ordained and where previous pastors at IPC have served (Morgan Roberts and Conrad Sharps). Shadyside’s pastor at the time, Dr. Hugh Thompson Kerr, first came up with the idea while he was acting as moderator of the General Assembly. Over time, the idea caught on until it was being celebrated all over the world.
As Dr. Kerr’s brother, Donald, explains, “The concept spread very slowly at the start. People did not give it a whole lot of thought. It was during the Second World War that the spirit caught hold, because we were trying to hold the world together. World Wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together, in a spiritual sense. It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
I think our world and our nation could certainly use some unity these days. We keep trying to find it in other things: politics, ethnicity, class, nationality, sports, etc. But none of those things can ultimately bring us all together. Only in Christ will humanity ever truly be one.
It is the unique calling of the church to share this good news about Jesus to our fractured society and world and to invite all people to become “one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” And that all starts in worship, as we hear the Word proclaimed and are nourished at the Lord’s Table.