"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Laestadian Communion

Monday, February 16, 2009

Laestadian Communion

I've had a request for a thread on Holy Communion as practiced in Laestadian churches. Who serves? Who is eligible? What is used for bread and wine? How do the Laestadian churches differ from each other in honoring this sacrament?


  1. I have never heard that communion was denied in the OALC. However, the Catholics will deny communion to non catholics.

    I would like to hear more, too.

  2. Cant speak to the Catholic issue but the OALC church I attended served communion to everyone who came up to the rail.
    I did hear one preacher say to take communion even if you had unforgiven sins on your conscience, to strengthen your faith. Another preacher said at another time to not come to communion with sins on your conscience, just to stay in your seat!
    Same church, different preacher, different day!

    The communion was served by the younger preachers and the regulars who usually sat up front or were song leaders, you know, the good solid christians!

    The bread is the same wafers sold in the christian stores and the wine is Mogan David or any other cheap sweet wine.

    Don't know about the other Laestadian Churches, but that's my experiences in the OALC.

  3. I can speak to the Roman Catholic practice. Non-Catholics are not able to receive communion, since they are not in complete communion of belief. Non-Catholics are encouraged to come up for a blessing however -- just cross your arms over your breast as you approach the priest or lay minister and he will give you a blessing.

    We believe in transubstantiation, which means that we believe that through the prayers of the priest, the bread wafers and wine become the true body (host) and blood of Christ. At the end of communion, all remaining wine is consumed either by the priest or the lay ministers who help to serve communion. Lay ministers can be anyone from the congregation, but most parishes ask that these people do go to a short training session -- a half hour or so thing where people are instructed in how to serve communion.

    Any remaining hosts are placed in the locked tabernacle to be used at another Mass. Whenever there are hosts in the tabernacle, there is a red candle burning 24 hours a day to signify that the body of Christ resides within. In other words, once the wine and bread have been consecrated, they do not turn back into plain old bread and wine again!

    I've always been somewhat perplexed by OALC belief that somehow they pour from a jug of wine into a glass and then say that is the true blood, and then when communion is over, it gets poured back into the jug and I guess becomes plain old wine again. Likewise there is no reverence given to remaining host wafers.

    Catholics are not to go to communion if they have serious sin on their conscience. Rather, they should go to reconciliation (what many people think of as "confession") before partaking of communion. BTW, reconciliation is one of the most misunderstood sacraments by non-Catholics, but that's another topic!

  4. I was told that if you are not a believer and you take communion, you are "drinking damnation to yourself." (LLC) I don't know if everyone believed that. I only heard it from one person. But I didn't really discuss it with anyone, either.

    And you were not to come to the communion rail without taking care of your matters first. So I think that's why lots of people, well, maybe not lots, but some people, used to wait until Communion Sunday to ask for forgiveness. Then no one would think anything of it that they were asking someone for forgiveness because everyone was pretty much doing it.

    That was never directly said. Well, maybe that's what I thought. :) But I'm pretty sure that I wasn't the only one.

  5. Mainstream Lutheran denominations such as the LCMS and WELS practice closed communion because Luther's catechism says we must not participate in this Sacrament unworthily. The ALC has open communion, leaving it to an individual's conscience. It is common practice to ask forgiveness prior to communion, but I personally believe we do this in the Lord's Prayer. Communion wafers and wine are used, although some people have objected to alcohol being used and think grape juice would be more suitable.

  6. The IALC does communion pretty much the same as the ALC, but people don't ask for forgiveness prior to communion. The reason why: which sins are you asking for, we all commit so many every day in some kind of way, including those we have no conscience of. Or just the "big" ones? The approach is that all sins are equal, and we can go directly to God with them, such as internally during the Lord's prayer. Of course, if a sin causes one great internal grief, one has the option of going to a fellow believer or a minister and he/she has the power to grant forgiveness as well.

    --Stranger in a Strange Land

  7. In Europe, Laestadians have until recently always received communion in the mainstream Lutheran church (the "state church"). This is still the case in Finland, but no longer so in the OALC in Sweden and most areas in Norway. In the OALC equivalent of Finland, the communion is still in the "state church". Some people go there whenever they feel like, while others wait for special communion services arranged for Laestadians for example in connection with big meetings. The liturgy used in the communion service in connection with the big meetings is the one that was used in the "state church" until 1990s. Some Laestadians have problems with the new liturgy that was introduced in the "state church" about 10-15 years ago, so they ask the priests to use the old one when they are doing a communion service for Laestadians. Others don't really care what kind of liturgy it is, or fail to see any difference between the liturgies because they are very similar. The liturgy is always done by a "state church" priest, but OALC preachers and sometimes also other people typically assist the priests in serving the communion. When serving communion, the Laestadian preachers and other people who are assisting put on the white robe the priests are wearing (called 'alb'), but don't wear stole or chasuble, which only the ordained priests wear. The communion service is always in a "state church" building, never at the Laestadian prayer house. In Sweden and Norway they have recently started having communion in the same way as it is done in the American OALC.

    In the OALC equivalent of Finland, there are two competing views also about going to communion with "sins on your conscience". Some are of the opinion that you shouldn't go to communion if you have something "on your conscience" while others say that you should go anyway so you can get strength from the communion to confess it later.

  8. This doesn't have anything to do with communion in Laestadian churches (except that there have actually always been a small number of Laestadians in Finland who belong to the Eastern Orthodox church), but as communion in the Catholic church and mainstream Lutheran churches was already discussed, I think I can say a word also about the practice in my church, the Eastern Orthodox church.

    Much of what cvow said about the Catholic church also applies to the Orthodox church. The communion in the Orthodox church is only for the members of the church because it is considered that the communion constitutes the church, and so long there is no unity there can't be shared communion either. Like the Catholics, we also believe that when the communion is celebrated the bread and wine become the true body and blood of Christ, and remain as such also after the communion. Normally everything that is left over is consumed by the priest or the deacon. However, some communion is always kept in a container on the altar table for the sick. When the priest goes to visit the sick he takes communion from that container, and when there is nothing left they put more in the container (normally this is done only once a year on Maundy Thursday but can be done also more often). During Great Lent (before Easter), the communion liturgy is not celebrated from Monday to Friday, only on Saturday and Sunday, and during those weeks some communion is left over from the Sunday communion service to be distributed at vespers during the week. It is considered that some grave sins exclude one automatically from communion, and in those case one should go to confession before receiving communion again. In some Orthodox churches (the global Orthodox church consists of 15 independent Orthodox local churches), they want to be on the safe side and don't let people decide by themselves when they should go to confession and require confession every time one is planning to go to communion, while in other Orthodox churches confession before every communion is not necessary if one's spiritual father (=priest) has given his blessing to the believer to decide by himself when one should go to confession. However, communion should always be received with a penitent heart, and in this we get help from the practice of reading certain prayers at home before going to church for communion and also from the communion fast (not eating or drinking anything) that starts at midnight before communion the following morning (or at least six hours if the communion is in the evening). The communion bread used in the Orthodox church is made of wheat flour, water, salt and yeast (it looks like normal bread, i.e. not like the Catholic and Lutheran wafers) and the wine should be made without any animal products (that's why they use kosher wine in many places). Normally the body of Christ is cut into small pieces and put in the chalice with the blood of Christ and served with a spoon.

  9. I'm adding a correction to the comment about communion at LCMS. Each congregation may be a little different. At mine, here is the exact wording from the church bulletin:
    Holy communion
    According to God's Word, We at *** practice "Communion Fellowship." Those communing with us have the following four fellowship ties:

    1. They are baptized in the name of the Triune God. (Matthew 28:19)

    2. They are willing to confess their sins, seeking God's forgiveness through Christ. (I Corinthians 11:28)

    3. They recognize the real presence of Christ in the blessed bread and wine. (I Corinthians 11:29)

    4. They have the desire to live a God-pleasing life (I Thessalonians 4:1-2)

    Whole families go up together. We have a "walking communion" very similar to the Catholic way. Children receive the sign of the cross on their forhead. We go up the middle and receive the body (originally a generic wafer). You choose which method of Christ's blood by moving to the common cup server or the servier with the tray of individual cups. Their is non alcoholic wine in the center of the individual cup trays. The servers are from the board of elders and the pastor. They pronounce that this is the body (or blood) of Christ for the remission of your sins. As a congregation we ask for forgiveness together by reading a confessional reading or silently as a group before communion.

  10. Speaking as an Christian (Laestadian Lutheran), we do not believe that an unbeliever will be damned by going to the Communion rail, and have no part in such a teaching. As for those who are believing sincerely, they will be strengthened in faith through Holy Communion.

    In Luther's words, taken from the Large Catechism, he states: "Our firm conclusion is: even though a scoundrel receives the Sacrament or administers it, it is the true sacrament, that is, Christ's body and blood, exactly the same as when someone uses it in the most worthy manner possible." In saying this, Luther goes on to explain how it is God's Word alone that makes Communion holy. It is not the work of any saint or pastor on earth that makes The Lord's Supper holy. (If you are a Catholic, you may not put much stock in what Luther says, but I challenge you to refute it by any scriptural teaching.) At The Last Supper, Christ did not say, "Only if you believe and are worthy, take eat." Judas had already betrayed Jesus in his heart by going to the priests and looking for a reward, yet he was present at The Last Supper. Why would we then shun, at the rail, those who are struggling with unbelief?

    Cvow, it is interesting to read what you have to say on the Catholic practices. This transubstantiation idea is one that I have never heard of, but I will try to explain my beliefs. The bread and wine are not holy because of their ingredients, and don't require a treatment of being exposed to an open flame to remain holy (where in the Bible is such a treatment explained?). Neither does a blessing by a priest make them holy, but it is Jesus Christ himself who instituted the Sacrament, and it is the Word of God that makes it holy. St. Augustine, himself being a Catholic lived before the Reformation time, and wrote of Communion: "When the Word is joined to the external element, it becomes a sacrament." Which straightforwardly explains, the element - bread and wine - without the Word of God is merely an element: bread and wine; but if exposed to the Word, it becomes the true body and blood of Christ.

    I will encourage you to start a new feed on your practice of reconciliation, since, as you stated, it is not much understood by non-Catholics.

  11. Ted makes a lot of sense.


  12. Welcome Ted, Good thoughts and comments!

    As you say, it is the Word that makes the communion host and wine the sacrament. In the RC church, it is the priest who happens to be the one saying the words. If you believe that when the pastor of your church says the words to the effect of it being the true body and blood -- thereby effecting the trnsformation -- that's not much different, is it -- it is still the fact the words are said to complete the transubstantiation.

    What I have a much bigger issue with is when communion is ended, I have seen the wafers remaining get wrapped back up and thrown in the bag, and I have -- no lie! -- seen the remaining wine poured back into the Mogen David bottle from which it began its journey! Now however you believe a transformation occurs through the word, treating the consecrated host and wine in this fashion is disrespectful at the least, in my opinion. I reject the notion that somehow it just changes back to bread and wine. That's why -- in the RC churches -- there is a locked tabernacle where the remaining consecrated hosts are placed in reverence. Any remaining wine is consumed by the eucharistic ministers, or in some cases, poured into a special "dry well".

  13. It's funny that I have to teach Lutherans what they are supposed to believe if they want to call themselves Lutheran. ;) But in fact the Lutheran confession agrees with the traditional churches about the possibility of receiving the body and blood of Christ to condemnation. Some passages from Luther's Large Catechism and the Lutheran Formula of Concord below:

    Luther's Large Catechism:

    "We must, therefore, make a distinction here among men. For those who are wanton and dissolute must be told to stay away; for they are not prepared to receive forgiveness of sin, since they do not desire it and do not wish to be godly. But the others, who are not such callous and wicked people, and desire to be godly, must not absent themselves, even though otherwise they be feeble and full of infirmities, as St. Hilary also has said: If any one have not committed sin for which he can rightly be put out of the congregation and esteemed as no Christian, he ought not stay away from the Sacrament, lest he may deprive himself of life. For no one will make such progress that he will not retain many daily infirmities in flesh and blood."

    Luther's Large Catechism:

    "To be sure, it is true that those who despise it and live in an unchristian manner receive it to their hurt and damnation; for nothing shall be good or wholesome to them, just as with a sick person who from caprice eats and drinks what is forbidden him by the physician."

    Formula of Concord

    "Therefore, as St. Paul says, that even the unworthy partake of the Sacrament, they hold that also to the unworthy the body and blood of Christ are truly offered, and the unworthy truly receive them, if [where] the institution and command of the Lord Christ are observed. But such persons receive them to condemnation, as St. Paul says; for they misuse the holy Sacrament, because they receive it without true repentance and without faith. For it was instituted for this purpose, that it might testify that to those who truly repent and comfort themselves by faith in Christ the grace and benefits of Christ are here applied, and that they are incorporated into Christ and are washed by His blood."

  14. As for the lamp burning in front of the sacrament in Catholic churches, I don't think they believe that the sacrament remains the body and blood of Christ only if there is a lamp in front of it all the time, as Ted seemed to believe. Rather I think they want to show respect to the presence of God in the sacrament by having a lamp burning in front of it all the time.

    In the Orthodox church there are always many lamps burning when the church is open, but I don't know if they leave a lamp burning when the church is closed. I've spent the night in the church a couple of times, sleeping on the sanctuary floor, and then one lamp was left burning in the middle through the night, but I don't know if it is left burning also when there is no-one in the church.