Presiding at the Table of the Lord
A Tutorial for Clergy
How do you celebrate the Eucharist?
Based upon my observations and conversations with pastors and laity across my denomination, most United Methodist clergy would sadly have to identify with at least three or more of the above statements. Laity tell me that many of their pastors appear to not know how to preside at the table, are uncomfortable doing so, and that even when they try to give it some sense of style and dignity their efforts usually fall flat or appear "confused," "unplanned," and "unnatural." Similarly, many clergy tell me that they are unsure regarding what to do, where, and why. This should not be surprising: many of us have had only the barest minimum of practical training in sacramental celebration -- either through a Conference Course of Study Program or in Seminary -- and, as a result, we feel quite unprepared to preside at the Table of the Lord. Many clergy are vague as to the meaning of the various parts of the Great Thanksgiving, nervous about "appearing too catholic" or "out of place" when presiding, and would rather rush through the liturgy in order to "get it over with," or just jettison the whole thing in favor of some kind of unstructured, non-liturgical, and un-historical presentation.
I found all three books to be extremely helpful in my own research on presiding at the Eucharist. From them, along with what I learned from worship classes in Seminary, through my participation in the Order of Saint Luke, and in worship with the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, I developed a sacramental style which I believe to be pleasing, meaningful, and authentic to my spirituality and to our United Methodist understanding of the Eucharist. In this section I will present some principles and guidelines, based upon my style, as well suggestions to help my fellow clergy to form a celebration style that will be authentic and meaningful for them. In the future I will also add a commentary on how to adapt various elements of a liturgical style of celebration to a non-liturigical or "Contemporary Worship" form of service.