In the Seventh-day Adventist Church the communion service customarily is celebrated once per quarter. The service includes the ordinance of foot-washing and the Lord’s Supper. It should be a most sacred and joyous occasion to the congregation, as well as to the minister or elder. Conducting the communion service is undoubtedly one of the most sacred duties that a minister or elder is called upon to perform. Jesus, the great Redeemer of this world, is holy. The angels declare: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." Therefore, since Jesus is holy, the symbols that represent His body and His blood are also holy. Since the Lord Himself selected the deeply meaningful symbols of the unleavened bread and unfermented fruit of the vine and used the simplest of means for washing the disciples’ feet, there should be great reluctance to introduce alternative symbols and [82 CHURCH MANUAL] means (except under truly emergency conditions) lest the original significance of the service be lost. Likewise in the order of service and the traditional roles played by the ministers, elders, deacons, and deaconesses in the communion service, there should be caution lest substitution and innovation contribute to a tendency to make common that which is sacred. Individualism and independence of action and practice could become an expression of unconcern for church unity and fellowship on this most blessed and sacred occasion. Desire for change could neutralize the element of remembrance in this service instituted by our Lord Himself as He entered upon His passion.
The service of the Lord’s Supper is just as holy today as it was when instituted by Jesus Christ. Jesus is still present when this sacred ordinance is celebrated. We read, "It is at these, His own appointments, that Christ meets His people, and energizes them by His presence."—The Desire of Ages, p. 656.
Ordinance of Foot-Washing—"Now, having washed the disciples’ feet, He said, ‘I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.’ In these words Christ was not merely enjoining the practice of hospitality. More was meant than the washing of the feet of guests to remove the dust of travel. Christ was here instituting a religious service. By the act of our Lord this . . . ceremony was made a consecrated ordinance. It was to be observed by the disciples, that they might ever keep in mind His lessons of humility and service.
"This ordinance is Christ’s appointed preparation for the sacramental service. While pride, variance, and strife for supremacy are cherished, the heart cannot enter into fellowship with Christ. We are not prepared to receive the communion of His body and His blood. Therefore it was that Jesus appointed the memorial of His humiliation to be first observed."— The Desire of Ages, p. 650.
In the act of washing the disciples’ feet, Christ performed a deeper cleansing, that of washing from the heart the stain of sin. The communicant senses an unworthiness to accept the sacred emblems before experiencing the cleansing that makes one "clean every whit" (John 13:10). Jesus desired to wash away "alienation, jealousy, and pride from their hearts. . . . Pride and self-seeking create dissension and hatred, but all this Jesus washed away. . . . Looking upon them, Jesus could say, ‘Ye are clean.’ "—The Desire of Ages, p. 646.
The spiritual experience that lies at the heart of foot-washing lifts it from being a common custom to being a sacred ordinance. It conveys a message of forgiveness, acceptance, assurance, and solidarity, primarily from Christ to the believer, but also between the believers themselves. This message is expressed in an atmosphere of humility. [SERVICES AND MEETINGS OF THE CHURCH 83]
Unleavened Bread and Unfermented Wine—"Christ is still at the table on which the paschal supper has been spread. The unleavened cakes used at the Passover season are before Him. The Passover wine, untouched by fermentation, is on the table. These emblems Christ employs to represent His own unblemished sacrifice. Nothing corrupted by fermentation, the symbol of sin and death, could represent the ‘Lamb without blemish and without spot.’ 1 Peter 1:19."—The Desire of Ages, p. 653.
Neither the wine nor the bread contained elements of fermentation, as on the evening of the first day of the Hebrew Passover all leaven, or fermentation, had been removed from their dwellings (Ex. 12:15, 19; 13:7). Therefore, only unfermented grape juice and unleavened bread are appropriate for use in the communion service; so great care must be exercised in providing these elements. In those more isolated areas of the world where grape or raisin juice or concentrate is not available, the conference/mission/field office will provide advice or assistance.
A Memorial of the Crucifixion—"By partaking of the Lord’s Supper, the broken bread and the fruit of the vine, we show forth the Lord’s death until He comes. The scenes of His sufferings and death are thus brought fresh to our minds."—Early Writings, p. 217.
"As we receive the bread and wine symbolizing Christ’s broken body and spilled blood, we in imagination join in the scene of Communion in the upper chamber. We seem to be passing through the garden consecrated by the agony of Him who bore the sins of the world. We witness the struggle by which our reconciliation with God was obtained. Christ is set forth crucified among us."—The Desire of Ages, p. 661.
A Proclamation of the Second Coming—"The Communion service points to Christ’s second coming. It was designed to keep this hope vivid in the minds of the disciples. Whenever they met together to commemorate His death, they recounted how ‘He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.’ In their tribulation they found comfort in the hope of their Lord’s return. Unspeakably precious to them was the thought, ‘As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.’ 1 Cor. 11:26."—The Desire of Ages, p. 659.
Announcing the Communion Service—The communion service may appropriately be included as part of any Christian worship service. [84 CHURCH MANUAL]
However, to give proper emphasis and make communion available to the greatest possible number of members, usually it is part of the Sabbath worship service, preferably on the next to the last Sabbath of each quarter.
On the preceding Sabbath an announcement should be made of the service calling attention to the importance of the forthcoming communion, so that all members may prepare their hearts and make sure that unresolved differences are put right with one another. When they come to the table of the Lord the following week, the service then can bring the blessing intended. Those who were not present for the announcement should be notified and invited to attend.
Conducting the Communion Service—Length of Service—Time is not the most significant factor in planning the communion service. However, attendance can be improved and the spiritual impact increased by:
1. Eliminating all extraneous items from the worship service on this high day.
2. Avoiding delays before and after the foot-washing.
3. Having the deaconesses arrange the emblems on the communion table well beforehand.
Preliminaries—The introductory portion of the service should include only very brief announcements, hymn, prayer, offering, and a short sermon before separating for the washing of feet and then returning for the Lord’s Supper which follows. More worshipers will be encouraged to stay for the entire service if the early part of the service has been brief.
Foot-Washing—Each church should have a plan for meeting the needs of its members for the foot-washing service. (See Notes, #3, p. 96.)
Bread and Wine—"Following the foot-washing, the congregation comes together once again to partake of the bread and the wine. (See Notes, #4, p. 97.)
Celebration—The service may close with a musical feature or congregational singing followed by dismissal. However it closes, it should end on a high note. Communion should always be a solemn experience but never a somber one. Wrongs have been righted, sins have been forgiven, and faith has been reaffirmed; it is a time for celebration. Let the music be bright and joyous.
An offering for the poor is often taken as the congregation leaves. After the service the deacons and deaconesses clear the table, collect glasses, and respectfully dispose of any bread or wine left over by pouring out the wine and burying, burning, or disposing of the bread in [SERVICES AND MEETINGS OF THE CHURCH 85] another appropriate manner but in no event returning it to common usage.
Who May Participate—The Seventh-day Adventist Church practices open communion. All who have committed their lives to the Saviour may participate. Children learn the significance of the service by observing others participating. After receiving formal instruction in baptismal classes and making their commitment to Jesus in baptism, they are thereby prepared to partake in the service themselves.
"Christ’s example forbids exclusiveness at the Lord’s Supper. It is true that open sin excludes the guilty. This the Holy Spirit plainly teaches. 1 Cor. 5:11. But beyond this none are to pass judgment. God has not left it with men to say who shall present themselves on these occasions. For who can read the heart? Who can distinguish the tares from the wheat? ‘Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.’ For ‘whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.’ ‘He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.’ 1 Cor. 11:28, 27, 29.
"When believers assemble to celebrate the ordinances, there are present messengers unseen by human eyes. There may be a Judas in the company, and if so, messengers from the prince of darkness are there, for they attend all who refuse to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Heavenly angels also are present. These unseen visitants are present on every such occasion. There may come into the company persons who are not in heart servants of truth and holiness, but who may wish to take part in the service. They should not be forbidden. There are witnesses present who were present when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and of Judas. More than human eyes beheld the scene."—The Desire of Ages, p. 656.
Every Member Should Attend—"None should exclude themselves from the Communion because some who are unworthy may be present. Every disciple is called upon to participate publicly, and thus bear witness that he accepts Christ as a personal Saviour. It is at these, His own appointments, that Christ meets His people, and energizes them by His presence. Hearts and hands that are unworthy may even administer the ordinance, yet Christ is there to minister to His children. All who come with their faith fixed upon Him will be greatly blessed. All who neglect these seasons of divine privilege will suffer loss. Of them it may appropriately be said, ‘Ye are not all clean.’ "—The Desire of Ages, p. 656. [86 CHURCH MANUAL]
Who May Conduct Communion Service—The communion service is to be conducted by an ordained minister or a church elder. Deacons, although ordained, cannot conduct the service, but they can assist by passing the bread and wine to the members.
Communion for the Sick—If any members are ill or cannot for any other reason leave the home to attend the communion service in the house of worship, a special service in the home may be held for them. This service can be conducted only by an ordained minister or a church elder, who may be accompanied and assisted by deacons or deaconesses who assist in the regular service.