Many years ago a friend and colleague invited me to join him in an ecumenical prayer breakfast with communion. I alluded to it in a 2012 article when I described the communion ware they used.
The prayer breakfast looks like one of those observances that was once more centrist and mainline but has become identified with conservatives today. Or maybe it’s that I’m in too secular an urban center. Or that I don’t like waking up early enough to have a prayer breakfast before work. Or that I’m not in the military or the Chamber of Commerce. Take your pick.
But I enjoyed that one years ago: there was an earnest, retro quality to it and the piety was sincere. I got to visit with new people. It was more of a men’s space than you normally find in devotional life, and I doubt that was accidental. (Butching up devotion has a long and mixed history.) The format can be adapted to many constituencies though, and some I’ve found online are all-women. Let your imagination roam. Church picnics or camps? It might be good for mission church starts that first meet in restaurant party rooms, even.
Surveying the prayer breakfast landscape, I don’t see communion offered as much as I would have thought, but then again eucharistic fellowship is that bridge too far, when simple prayer and singing doesn’t aggravate ecclesiastic sensibilities. Catholics might have one following a mass.
But when I found this from W. E. Orchard’s 1921 The Order of Divine Service for Public Worship I knew I had a winner because it solved the “problem” of distributing the emblems (a commonly-used term among Universalists of yore for the bread and wine; I love it and will keep it) though you might think it creates new problems for the consecration.
The service is interesting for its simplicity, not the least because Orchard later “crossed the Tiber” and became a Roman Catholic priest. But perhaps he meant, in his developing view of the sacraments, the simplest that was appropriate and effective. Certainly the bare recitation of the Institution from St. Paul would be simpler, and you see that in the “lower” Reformed Churches, ours included, but it’s also wanting in form and piety. I do.
I’d love some feedback and (even better) links to any prayer breakfasts you’ve attended or conducted.
A SIMPLE OBSERVANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
This Order provides for the simplest possible Observance of the Lord’s Supper, giving the words of Scripture to be read by the President, indicating (in brackets) the appropriate actions, and suggesting (in italics) the subjects for silent prayer and private devotion.
The President shall commence by saying.
The disciples did as Jesus appointed them; and they made ready the Passover.
(Here the elements maybe distributed, and those who are to partake may prepare themselves by prayer.)
Now when even was come, he was sitting at meat with the twelve disciples ; and as they were eating, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began to say unto him every one, Is it I, Lord?
Self-examination and Confession.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread,
(Here the President may take the bread into his hands.)
Here the Holy Spirit should be silently invoked.
and brake it ;
(Here the President may break the bread.)
and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you.
This do in remembrance of me.
(Here all partake of the bread.)
After the same manner also, he took a cup,
(Here the President may take the cup into his hands.)
and gave thanks,
and gave to them saying, Drink ye all of it ; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many unto remission of sins.
This do as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
(Here all partake of the cup.)
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.
Prayer pleading the sacrifice of Christ and making offering
of self to God.
(The offerings for the Poor may now be collected, the President
saying: Brethren, ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.)
THE HIGH PRIESTLY PRAYER
Jesus, lifting up his eyes unto heaven, said, Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me; for they are thine and I am glorified in them.
Remembrance of the saints and the departed.
Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word;
Remembrance of the living.
That they may all be one ; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee:
Prayer for the unity of the Church.
That the world may believe that thou didst send me.
Prayer for the conversion of the world and the coming
of the Kingdom.
(Here the President may announce a Hymn, saying. And when they had sung a hymn they went out.)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
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