Communion tables & larger churches

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nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
Practically speaking, how could a congregation of 100-200 use tables in communion that communicants sit around? Anyone in a congregation this size that uses tables? I've usually only seen fairly small congregations use tables.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
The church I used to attend had around 120, and we would set up two tables and the congregation would come up to the table by families.
 

reformedminister

Puritan Board Sophomore
Why the tables? Do you eat a meal with communion? Just wondering. I understand the curiosity and thought to be as Scriptural and authentic as you can be. However, you may need to be reminded a couple of things. The oriental tables were close to the floor and there were no chairs, which explains why John was leaning on our Lord's chest. Also, the early church met in homes. Don't forget the fermented wine, that was mixed with water because it was stronger than the wine that we are used to. ;)
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
I would prefer for people to stick with the scope of my question in the post. This is only a thread to discuss the practicality.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
Nathan, yours is an intersting question on a practice I've not heard of but I nonetheless would be intersted to know if there are churches out there (especially larger ones) that all sit at a table in the observance of the supper.

In answer to Rev. Eppard, the Bible does refer to the Supper as the "Lord's Table" (I Cor. 10:21). Traditionally protestant churches have a Communion Table in their meeting houses for this purpose (albeit much too small for everyone to gather around). So it would seem quite natural to think of having the supper with everyone around the Table. After all, this does prefigure the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7–10) which all of the redeemed shall partake of in the age to come.
 

Rev. Todd Ruddell

Puritan Board Junior
I am not in favor of communing by families as the defining factor, as I believe that the Communion Table is for the Church at large, apart from such segregations. If the communicant membership of a Church is too large for communing all at once at their table, a succession of communicants can be organized according to the rows of congregational seating, depending on how many can be seated at a time.
 

irresistible_grace

Puritan Board Junior
Our church sits at table for communion we are small but the church that is over seeing our work has around 100 (maybe more) & they too sit at table for the sacrament of the Lord's Table. Typically, several tables are connected end to end to make one continuous table and half of the communicant members come up to partake, once the sacrament is administered they return to their seats and the remainder come to table to partake (we are small enough that we can all fit at the table at once but there they come half at a time).
 

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PuritanCovenanter

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I am amazed at the power of Gillespie's heart and mind. His Dad must have been something also. May God raise up more like him for today.
 

reformedminister

Puritan Board Sophomore
We have a communion table in the front that we put the elements on. We either distribute it to the congregation in the pews or have them come up front. I don't see the point of sitting around the table. Even if it was defended practice doesn't make it proper. People have done a lot of illogical and silly things in the name of religion. If a church is going to do this, and it is their right to choose to do so, then why not just serve communion when you have a fellowship dinner? This would make the most sense if you are going to sit at a table. :detective:
 

Rev. Todd Ruddell

Puritan Board Junior
We have a communion table in the front that we put the elements on. We either distribute it to the congregation in the pews or have them come up front. I don't see the point of sitting around the table. Even if it was defended practice doesn't make it proper. People have done a lot of illogical and silly things in the name of religion. If a church is going to do this, and it is their right to choose to do so, then why not just serve communion when you have a fellowship dinner? This would make the most sense if you are going to sit at a table. :detective:
Rev. Eppard, our practice at CCRPC is to come and sit at a table. There is a former thread on the PB where this has been discussed, and works defending the practice referenced. The point of sitting at a table, as these works relate, is that we sit as invited and (although unworthy) honored guests at the family table of our King and Elder Brother--that the use of a table spoke of great privilege in the ancient near east, and even retains a measure of that privilege today is, I believe, something we all recognize (think of the invited guests to the King's table in the days of Saul, and the scene at Sinai in Exodus 24 where the elders of Israel, as representatives of the nation, sat at table to enjoy a meal of acceptance and communion before God Himself). We sit as family members, facing one another in that table arrangement, where we look one another in the face, and place our feet under the same table as a family, as we consider our communion with one another in Christ. Truly, this is more in keeping with the Greek original, transliterated koinwnia, fellowship, communion, with one another in Christ. As a review of the works mentioned above will show, the practice of communing in pews with our backs to one another as a congregation tends to work against that understanding, and individualizes, rather than makes a "communion" of the table. I am aware that you in all likelihood do not agree with the above. This is not an attempt on my part to debate you, only to answer your assertion, "I don't see the point of sitting around a table".

As for making the Lord's Supper a part of a fellowship dinner, that would be, In my humble opinion, to work against the Sacramental nature of the Table of the Lord, and to make it common. Further, we would admit someone to a fellowship meal that we might not have to the communion table--this would, again In my humble opinion create confusion.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I haven't seen it done, but...

If there were another large room and tables available, what would stop you from having everyone get up, move to the fellowship hall or wherever, and continuing the service there? It seems to me that many churches having 100+ communing members also have a fellowship hall able to seat that many or more.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Sophomore
The practice of using tables has a long history in the Scottish Presbyterian tradition. See Nigel Yates, Liturgical Space: Christian Worship and Church Buildings in Western Europe, 57ff for an interesting discussion of the practice (viewable on googlebooks). One thing it clearly avoided was the practice of kneeling to receive the sacrament, which was the then Roman Catholic and Anglican practice, which the Reformers saw as an abomination. It emphasized the family meal aspect of the Lord's Supper very clearly. As for how it was carried out, either long tables were set up inside the church, or in some cases outside in the open air to accommodate the huge numbers that attended an annual celebration of the "communion season."

I'm not sure why it would be any harder to "fence the tables" in this context than in any other form of administration, especially since in the Scottish context nearly a wekk of preparatory services have been happening. Clearly at Corinth, the Lord's Supper was part of a celebratory meal. We don't follow the practice ourselves because with weekly communion (as the Westminster Directory of Public Worship encourages but does not mandate), it would be difficult to administer in a congregation of our size. But if I were doing it as an annual celebration, I would love to see it done like this.

As an historical note, I still remember from my childhood in Scotland that though the practice of sitting at tables had ceased, the pews of the church were still covered with white linen representing the tablecloths.

The pattern of communion seasons continues in the Highlands, with some modifications. See, for example, Alfred Place Baptist Church - Geoff's Blog
 

reformedminister

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well, I can honestly say I had no idea the history of this practice. I have heard of house churches and some independent churches doing something similar. It is not a part of my tradition or understanding of the Sacrament. I guess that is what Christian liberty is about. I wonder would Calvin say about this? ;)
 

NaphtaliPress

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It wouldn't surprise me if Calvin and Geneva used a table. Knox is shown administering the Lord's Supper at table in the portrait on the cover of The Confessional Presbyterian vol. 7 which is based on a famous (incomplete due to his death) portrait by Sir David Wilkie, “John Knox dispensing the Sacrament at Calder House” upon occasion of the first observance (or one of the first) after the Reformation. Warfield writes "From the very beginning of their existence, the Reformed churches had insisted that the Supper is a meal and is to be administered at a table." B. B. Warfield, The Posture of the Recipients at the Lord's Supper," Selected Shorter Writings, ed. John E. Meeter, volume 2 (P&R, 1970, 1973) 352.
JohnKnoxCover1forcard-731x1024.jpg
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jfhutson

Puritan Board Freshman
I happen to be reading James White's Protestant Worship. Speaking of Calvin's Geneva:
A plain table was brought in and communicants sat or knelt about it. Eventually, sitting about the Lord's Table came to be the distinctive Reformed posture for receiving the Lord's Supper and continues so today in the Netherlands. This practice made it easy to repel the notorious sinner from a seat at the table.
I wish there was a bit more here about the practicalities, but by looking at the building where Calvin preached, I assume his congregation was quite large?
 

Cymro

Puritan Board Junior
It is still practised in some Free Churches of Scotland, in fact when we attend the one in
Cobham, Surrey, England, where our son in law is an Elder, they still leave their seats to
go to the table. As they do so they sings a psalm, the non-communicant members remain
in their seats. It graphically depicts the separation of the sheep and the goats, and many a
soul over the centuries has been challenged about their condition.
There is definitely a family feeling when sitting around the table. The one table;one bread;
one cup and one body. Admittedly it is a small church, but in former days in Scotland there
was no problem when hundreds and even thousands would in batches come up to the Lord's
table.Each table would be fenced, ie, the presiding Ministers in turns speaking a short word
of exhortation, warning, encouragement and edification as to what they were observing at
the table. I am always blest in sharing with my brethren and sisters after such a manner.
Especially so with visitors coming to work in London from America, S. Africa, Holland etc.
"O set ye open unto me
the gates of righteousness;
Then will I enter into them,
and I the Lord will bless.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
The PCA recognizes that it is appropriate to do be seated around the table with a parenthetical permitting remaining in the pews as an alternative:


58-5 THE BOOK OF CHURCH ORDER

The table, on which the elements are placed, being decently covered, and furnished with bread and wine, and the communicants orderly and gravely sitting around it (or in their seats before it), the elders in a convenient place together, the minister should then set the elements apart by prayer and thanksgiving.
 
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