For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26 NIV
“I think it’s been years since anyone served me communion.” Glenn said, as he took the cup of grape juice and matzo bread that I had brought into his room at the nursing home. I am constantly amazed at the joy that people like Glenn experience when they are given the Lord’s Supper. I am likewise surprised to notice the general lack of awareness of that need on the part of the Protestant clergy. Our Catholic friends however are very diligent to send lay workers for their version of communion. The act of receiving the bread and the cup were given to us directly from our Master’s hand along with a command to remember His death till He comes. So why is it any less vital to serve communion at a nursing home than it is at church?
My personal acquaintance with nursing home ministry goes back thirty years and spans five different facilities where I have served. My first attempt at bringing in the communion ended in near disaster when the cork from the bottle of naturally carbonated grape juice popped off and whizzed across the room! Back then I had a team member from our church who helped me pass out the elements to the 6 or 8 people gathered in our small meeting. But over the years our attendance grew but my fellow volunteer had scheduling issues that left me to serve alone. At first I begged an occasional helper from church to come help; but sadly for a long time I simply gave up on the practice.
“I just wish I had someone to help me pass out communion.” I complained one day to Erin the activities director at Allied Services. “Why can’t we help you pass out the cups and the bread, Pastor Pete?” Erin asked with surprise.
“Oh no it’s okay. I’ll find somebody.” I said. But what I really wanted was for people from my own church to serve communion. A couple of months passed after Erin’s first offer till I went back to her office. “Would your people really be willing to help me pass out the communion today?” I asked humbly.
“No problem Pastor Pete!” she said smiling. Why was it such a big issue for me to ask for such a small favor? Maybe it was just a matter of pride, or just a general lack of awareness of the needs of our group. By that time the meeting had grown to over twenty people. What a blessing it was to have workers who knew them by name and could know if they had physical issues which could prevent them from safely receiving the bread or the cup. From then, on at least once a month, any resident who wished to receive communion was given the opportunity.
So if you are involved in nursing home ministry and would like to begin bringing in the Lord’s Supper tomorrow we’ll look at a few practical steps that can help you get started.