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The World-Wide Table

The World-Wide Table

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:16

by Shelley Walters on September 26, 2023

The World-Wide Table

Do you ever wonder what people were thinking the first time they started a long-lasting tradition? I often wonder - did the person who decided to put a tree in their living room and decorate it for Christmas know how the tradition would grow? Did the first family to hide eggs in their garden imagine that egg hunts would be an Eastertime staple?  

I do think that Rev. Dr. Hugh Thompson Kerr knew exactly what he was starting. Ninety years ago, when his church celebrated World Wide Communion Sunday for the first time, Rev. Kerr envisioned Christians around the globe gathering around the Table, turning towards one another, and centering in Christ. 

There at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1933, Dr. Kerr’s younger son Donald was sixteen. Donald reflects, “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.” At a time when the world was struggling, these Christians gathered as the Body of Christ at the Table.

Tim Engleman, a church historian at Shadyside, shared, “Dr. Kerr was concerned about totalitarianism and the need for the church worldwide to take a stand against that.” As we go to the Table to celebrate World Communion Sunday this week, I wonder what concerns for the world we will bring with us. I wonder what needs we will lift in prayer. I wonder what hope will be given.

Jan Richardson wrote this blessing for World Communion Sunday – one that gives words to the hope this worldwide ritual embodied from the beginning.

And the table
will be wide.
And the welcome
will be wide.
And the arms
will open wide
to gather us in.
And our hearts
will open wide
to receive.

And we will come
as children who trust
there is enough.
And we will come
unhindered and free.
And our aching
will be met
with bread.
And our sorrow
will be met
with wine.

And we will open our hands
to the feast
without shame.
And we will turn
toward each other
without fear.
And we will give up
our appetite
for despair.
And we will taste
and know
of delight.

And we will become bread
for a hungering world.
And we will become drink
for those who thirst.
And the blessed
will become the blessing.
And everywhere
will be the feast.

May it be so.
See you at the Table,

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