Shake hands or hug? Kneel or stand? I have always found communion quite interesting, it is something we do virtually every month and yet we seldom talk about HOW we do it, because we assume that everybody knows how it works. It is only when we attend the advanced module of the Safeguarding course that we reflect on the implications of communion to victims of abuse and I would respectfully draw two particular situations to your attention. Firstly we have the passing of the peace which in my experience has only been a common practice in the last thirty or forty years and some people find it quite difficult, in fact I know some people who hate the practice, not because they are miserable, awkward or don’t feel the need, but because for some, walking around and greeting people is difficult for some.
It is lovely that some of the people in Church like to greet one another with a hug and for some, that is a very natural thing to do and I wouldn’t want to discourage it. This might feel desperately uncomfortable for a victim of abuse and invariably the people who fall into this category will not necessarily be open about their home situation, so maybe we need to be aware and think carefully as we pass the peace.
Secondly, do we stand or kneel when we receive the bread and wine? Traditionally, we are led to believe that expectation is to kneel, which some people find difficult because of health and quite rightly they choose to remain standing. I’m not exactly a tall bloke, but I am always aware that I tend to tower over people when they are kneeling and again some people can find this uncomfortable and even intimidating.
I would like to invite people to do whatever they feel most comfortable doing, if people would prefer not to share in the passing of the peace, please stay in your seat and maybe the rest of us can honour the wishes of our friends. When you come to the rail to receive bread and wine, do whatever you feel most comfortable doing, stand or kneel, whichever you prefer.
As Church, we really ought to be a community of love and care and I pray that we can all honour one another's feelings.