Communion and the Common Table: An Explanation

A church’s architecture and furniture often derive from a church’s theology. This is especially so in Churches of Christ.
We tend not to embrace iconography. Instead: the priesthood of the believer.  We don’t have a choir or choir loft. Instead: congregational singing and making melody heart to heart, pew to pew.
And no high altar. Instead, in our fellowship: a simple table around which believers gather and share a common meal – and not that much of a meal, really, only a nibble of bread, a sip of juice or wine. But it’s a sacrament Jesus himself instituted, gathered around a crude table with his disciples. “Do this in remembrance of me,” he instructed.
And so 2000 years later, that’s what we Christians still do. We take that piteous nibble and sip, and …
… We commemorate a Savior who died – a somber thing.
… We celebrate a Savior who rose from the dead – a joyous thing.
… We await that Savior’s return, when he will restore us to himself – a hopeful thing.
And by those collective things, we are renewed.
In church buildings like the ones many of us grew up in there was almost always a table, but the gathering around it was metaphorical. Prayers were led at the table, but communion was taken in a pew, facing forward, often with eyes downcast. We were solitary souls contemplating the gravity of a gift none of us could comprehend. Sure, we were taking communion at the same time, but not so much together – at least not as together as Jesus was with his disciples gathered physically around that first table.
Here at Arlington, we believe that physical gathering matters. That’s why in 2022 the Arlington shepherds implemented a change in how we take communion on Sunday mornings – a change intended to do three things:
  • To emphasize spatially the centrality of communion in our weekly gatherings.
  • To gather us around a physical table.
  • To more closely approximate what we think scripture shows early Christians doing: taking communion together.
Mind you, our gathering for communion is not meant to substitute for other gatherings together, such as in small groups or fellowship meals or working alongside each other in ministry.
We understand that gathering around the table may feel awkward for some, at least at first. We acknowledge that it can be an ordeal for those with small children. We know that other churches may not do it like we do it.
So it is with any family gathering: at times awkward, occasionally an ordeal, maybe different from the neighbors. But in this family, we support each other through the discomfort and the ordeal, and we celebrate our hope together.
Recently our shepherds announced plans to remove some pews in the center of the auditorium to better accommodate our gathering around the table. Why? Because we think our architecture and layout can better reflect our belief that communion is central to our faith and worship.
We hope you’ll join us in this family gathering.