“All who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” (I Cor. 11:29)
The first Sunday in October is designated as World Communion Sunday, which celebrates our oneness in Christ with all our brothers and sisters around the world. Paul tells us that we are to “discern the body” when we partake of Holy Communion, mindful that we note our relationship to all our brothers and sisters in Christ in the celebration. One is not to go hungry while another is drunk! (I Cor. 11:21). This is scandalous behavior opposed to the Way of Christ. Thus it is appropriate that World Communion Sunday is also a time when we receive the Neighbors in Need (NIN) Offering as a way of continuing the ancient Christian practice of sharing what we have with brothers and sisters in need.
World Communion Sunday (originally called World Wide Communion Sunday) is a gift of the Presbyterian Church to the larger ecumenical church. The first celebration occurred at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1933 where Dr. Hugh Thompson Kerr served as pastor. Donald Kerr explained how the idea of World Communion Sunday spread from that first service to the world wide practice of today, “The concept spread very slowly at the start. People did not give it a whole lot of thought. It was during the Second World War that the spirit caught hold, because we were trying to hold the world together. World Wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together, in a spiritual sense. It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
St. John’s United Church of Christ will – as part of their World Communion Sunday observance – receive the NIN offering on October 2, 2016. Through the Neighbors in Need offering, the church expresses a common commitment to justice and compassion throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. One-third of the offering undergirds the work of the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM), including much-needed financial support for 20 American Indian congregations in the UCC. Two-thirds of Neighbors in Need supports program initiatives and direct grants offered by the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries. Small but essential grants are made throughout the year to congregations and organizations engaged in community organizing, public policy advocacy, and direct service. Although grants are made to address a wide range of justice priorities, a significant portion of these grants are made to address issues of hunger and poverty. You can learn more about these ministries when you read their Transformational Stories.