LOGO angelican
November 2010
Vol 3, Issue 3

Practicing Month to Month
A Newsletter of the Spiritual Development Committee
Welcome to our Spiritual Practices E-Newsletter

This fall we continue to explore Communion as a spiritual practice.  On Sunday, November 14 we welcome The Rev. Brian Pearson and the 'Soul Food Band' to St. Laurence for a 'De-constructed Musical Mass."  This fun and non-conventional service will be an opportunity to see all the traditional elements of a service cast in a new light.  Drums, guitars, poetry, all sorts of things to stretch out imaginations. Don't miss it!


As a warm up to this experience please read Spencer Steven's wonderful reflections on Communion below.



The Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee

Introduction to the Practice


bread and wine



The publisher and editors of the Ancient Practices Series performed a great service to their readers when they asked Nora Gallagher to contribute a book on the sacrament of Holy Communion.  As a Lay Eucharistic Minister in the Episcopal church, Nora Gallagher provides profound insights into the great sacrament, but she also fully understands the hopes and concerns that the laity bring to Christ's table.


The editors and author also made an inspired decision when they agreed that the book should be entitled The Sacred Meal.  By referring to the great sacrament as "the sacred meal" rather than Holy Communion, the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper, Nora Gallagher seems to be inviting the reader to set aside (temporarily at least) the theological, historical and cultural perspectives from which most believers view any discussion of this important living tradition which is central to the spiritual lives of so many Christians.


Certainly, Holy Communion has been central to Nora Gallagher's spiritual experience and life story; and she uses the personal narrative technique very effectively to provide a fresh perspective on the wisdom that lies at the heart of this sacred spiritual practice.


That wisdom originated with Christ's wonderful ability to endow ordinary things and everyday activities with spiritual meaning.  This ability may have reached its full fruition when Jesus gave his followers the gift of a sacrament based upon a simple meal of bread and wine.


Traditionally, of course, Holy Communion is based upon Christ's words and actions at the Last Supper, but Nora Gallagher shares the view of a scholar named Paul Bradshaw who suggests that the sacrament also incorporates other stories from the gospels in which Christ shares meals with both his followers and strangers. (p.101)


This rather unconventional view of the relationship between the sacrament and the gospels actually served to enhance my understanding of the sacred meal as a Christ-scented spiritual practice because it seems to reveal the way in which key aspects of Christ's life and ministry are reflected in the great sacrament.


For example, the full story of the Last Supper clearly shows our Lord's great capacity for friendship and love.  The story of the distribution of the loaves and fishes to the hungry multitude (so important that it appears in all four gospels) demonstrates his great capacity for compassion and empathy towards those in need.  The story in which Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding of Cana illustrates his great capacity to bring joy and peace into the lives of ordinary people.  These passages can help us to appreciate how important it is for the spirit of peace, love, joy, compassion, empathy and friendship to be present among those receiving the bread and wine.


Of course, the incorporation of food into religious worship is a very ancient and universal practice.  Nora Gallagher points out that the Christian Eucharistic liturgy probably had its roots in the traditions of the ancient Hebrew culture which included the sacred meal of the Passover (the Seder), and the evening meals that welcomed the Sabbath as well as the great Jewish festivals.  (p.100-101)


Paul Bradshaw has discovered that the earliest Christian communities did not have a standard and uniform way of celebrating the sacred meal.  Many local differences existed within the church during this period. (p.101-102)


By the fourth century, however, Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire.  As a result, the sacred meal became the centrepiece of the new state religion, and was transformed from an intimate informal celebration, often held in private homes, to a very beautiful but highly formalized worship service that was to be held in large public spaces deemed to be sacred by the church hierarchy. (p.105)


In the sixteenth century, the sacred meal became one of the major points of division between the leaders of the established church and the leaders of the reformation.  The doctrine of transubstantiation, which asserts that the bread and wine, when consecrated by the priest, becomes the actual body and blood of Christ, was openly challenged by the reformers; but not even the leaders in the reform camp could agree upon the "true" nature of the sacred meal.


Meanwhile, the Anglican church managed to blunt the sharp edges of doctrinal dispute and division.  The sacred meal would be vital to Anglican worship but all certainty about the manner in which Christ is present in the bread and wine was conceded to God and God alone. (p.106)


Nora Gallagher clearly enjoys many of the contemporary trends in the Anglican celebration of the sacred meal which often include forms of worship found in the ancient church.  Today, the great sacrament is often celebrated in small groups, away from the church setting, and in a much more informal manner. (p.106-107)


The author is very passionate in her support of one particular development in the Anglican church: the inclusion of everyone at Christ's table regardless of their standing or status.


            "Communion is so important to me that I don't think there should be rules

              about who can take it and who cannot." (p.88)


            "The gospel story that makes the most sense to me about the Eucharist is

              the feeding of the five thousand.  Jesus didn't ask those thousands of people

                camped on the hillside whether they had confessed their sins or how clean

                they were.  He fed them." (p.92)


While Nora Gallagher respects faith communities that do not share her open-door policy regarding Holy Communion, her strong views are based upon the hard lessons of practical personal experience.  As a child, she felt very alienated from the sacred meal at a church she was visiting in her local community because she and others were excluded from the celebration and thanksgiving. (p.69)  As a volunteer in the soup kitchen of her own church, she learned that any attempt to impose strict formal rules actually frustrated the Christ-centred goal of helping others. (p.89-90)


The powerful idea that the sacred meal should be available to all who approach Christ's table is directly related to a major purpose that the great sacrament seems to be serving in the church of the twenty-first century.  The sacred meal reminds us that we do not belong to a mere aggregate of individuals but to a much greater community that flourishes on practical and spiritual levels.  By welcoming everyone into this community, the sacred meal helps to alleviate the chronic sense of isolation and separation that afflicts so many people in contemporary society.  Christ's healing gift of community is a sanctuary from this modern condition.





































Quotations and Passages Related to Chapters 6 to 9 of The Sacred Meal:


Jesus practiced a radical faith: everyone was welcome at his table.

                                                                        Nora Gallagher (p.92)


Proverbs 9:5-6 (Wisdom's Feast)


Matthew 26:26-28


Mark 8:1-8


John 2:1-11


1 Corinthians 12:12-13














This month at St. Laurence

Sunday, November 14-
The Rev. Brian Pearson and the Soul Food Band join us at St. Laurence for a 10 am 'Deconstructed Musical Mass"
  Sunday, November 21  - NO SERVICE AT ST. LAURENCE 10: 30 am joint service at Christ Church (
Sunday, November 28 -
-1st Sunday of Advent.  10 am service at St. Laurence followed by information meeting to update on renovation plans and to outline the process going forward.