Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
In the latest issue of Friends' Journal there is an article, featured on the cover, called 'Quaker Communion' by Bruce Neumann. The author writes, 'for many years, I harbored a rather untypical Quaker longing. Occasional oblique comments to other Friends didn't seem to engender interest, so I held the longing to myself . . . the longing was to share communion with a small group of other Quakers, after the fashion of Friends.'
Eventually the author, through connections with the School of the Spirit, and other Friends, was able to find a small number of Friends who felt similarly drawn to Quaker Communion.
I was uplifted and delighted by this simple article because I have had such a leading myself. Beginning late in 2011, I began to feel a strong attraction to the idea of taking Communion. But I didn't want to do it in a way that is dependent on a priesthood. I wanted to do it in the manner of Quakers. But that is the difficulty as Quakers are noted for not taking communion.
What to do?
I decided to begin taking communion on my own. I integrated a very simple commnion service into my morning prayers. I read the passage from 1 Corinthians relevant to communion, partake of bread and grape juice, and conclude with the Lord's Prayer.
I have found taking communion on a daily basis, as part of my overall morning prayers, to be richly rewarding. Still, I hoped to finding other Quakers who have a similar leading. And that is why I found the article in Friends' Journal so encouraging.
I brought the article to the attention of my Meeting and reactions covered a wide range; all the way from not liking the idea at all to finding the idea of a simple Quaker Communion Service to be something attractive. It didn't surprise me that there would be this range of reaction. I was only pleased to discover that there are others who find the idea possibly efficacious.
So I would like to recommend the article to Quakers in general. I think it is thoughtful and opens up a possibility for Quaker Faith and Practice which, I think, is a new direction. By 'new direction' I mean new for unprogrammed Quakers. It's not new for Christianity. And here I would like to close by pointing out that Quakers thought of themselves as 'primitive Christianity revived.' And there is a lot of truth to that view. But in some ways I think Quakers may have, at times, thrown the baby out with the bathwater. There is a lot of evidence for communion going all the way back to the very earliest Christian communities. Paul notes communion service in 1 Corinthians (about 50 AD) and says he had received this service from others. Communion is noted in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is also noted in the 'Didache', a very early non-canonical work which appears to have been one of the first, perhaps the first, manual for those entering the nascent Church. I am suggesting that communion is part of 'primitive Christianity' and that practicing communion can assist in connecting with that era.
Thy Friend Jim