This booklet was initially written at the request of the 1990 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of (Aotearoa) New Zealand. A second edition was prepared at the request of the 1993 Assembly. The 1994 Assembly approved the second (revised) edition as the official training resource for those elders authorised to lead communion.
This resource has two purposes: to equip Presbyteries with guidelines and resources for training courses for elders who are to lead services of communion, and to provide such elders with a basic handbook, including some useable communion orders.
This third edition has been updated by the Revs Nikki Watkins and Stuart Lange.
Celebrating Communion was not written for experts, but for ordinary elders and ministers. We hope it will be dipped into by elders long after they have been trained and authorised to administer communion. Instructors and trainees alike may find useful its suggestions for further reading and its listings of resources. The Special Committee hopes that much of the material on the meaning of communion and on common orders of service (Chapters 2 - 5) may also be found useful in some parts of our Church where there may be little current interest in having elders conduct communion.
Those responsible for running Presbytery and UDC training courses should read Chapter Six first.
This booklet does not discuss the debate that the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has had about the whole matter of lay administration of the sacraments. The relevant issues of theology and order are documented in the 1988 White Book (pp.123-30), the 1990 White Book (pp.194-5), the 1990 Year Book (pp.309-311), and the 1993 White Book (pp.222-226).
In relation to humans this resource seeks to use inclusive language. In relation to God, it is written with the understanding that the triune God is spirit, whose infinite being transcends human categories of gender. God's character displays a range of qualities, which we as human beings associate with both masculine and feminine nature. The language of revelation, in the Bible, freely uses masculine pronouns in referring to God. In quoting the Bible this booklet follows the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, or the New Revised Standard Version. Elsewhere the resource avoids unnecessary or excessive use of masculine pronouns in reference to God, but retains them in those cases where avoiding them would de-personalise God, distort the theology, or introduce stylistic oddities.
I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the generous input and goodwill of a great many people during the production and revision of this resource. Of particular help were the Rev Dr John Roxborogh, Rev Dr Kerry Enright, Rev Dr Peter Gardner, members of the Communications Department, and members of the Special Committee itself. All Assembly committee work carries a cost, and I am personally grateful for the support and understanding of my wife, Christine.
(Convener, Special Committee on
Lay Administration of the Sacraments) (1994)