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In Protestant denominations where the practice of the Lord's Supper / Holy Communion is considered a means of grace (instead of 100% remembrance / memorial), can a head of family celebrate the Lord's Supper with his family at home, following as closely as possible how it is celebrated at church by the pastor? More importantly, is it a valid sacrament that becomes the same means of grace as when it's performed by the church pastor?

I am asking specifically for Protestant denominations that

  • do not have special rules to restrict performing the Lord's Supper / Holy Communion to certain roles (like an ordained priest), which opens the possibility for a head of family to perform the service at home
  • take the view of the Lord's Supper / Communion as a means of grace rather than 100% memorial only

Theologically I cannot find any issues, since:

  • Unlike in Catholicism and possibly in Anglicanism, there is no special ordination required for performing the rite so that the bread and wine becomes the means of grace
  • There is the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers

I'm asking this in the context of Covid-19 gathering restrictions. But even when Covid-19 pandemic is over, if families are really serious in obtaining grace through the Lord's Supper, can they supplement the Lord's Supper service at their churches (usually monthly) by doing it weekly at home as well? According to wikipedia:

Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have been considering whether to restore more frequent communion, including weekly communion in more churches, considering that infrequent communion was derived from a memorialist view of the Lord's Supper, rather than Calvin's view of the sacrament as a means of grace.

A related point to consider (not part of this question): in the early church period before there were special church buildings and when a congregation was possibly no larger than an extended household, who officiated over the Lord's Supper? Was an ordained pastor necessary to perform it?

The answer should name the denomination(s) which see the Lord's Supper as conferring grace to the partakers (instead of a memorial / remembrance) and then state one of these possibilities:

  1. They explicitly disallow home-based communion service. If they disallow, what's the theological reason, since Protestants in general subscribes to the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Also, the motivation is not to be schismatic since the confession of faith is preserved and the home-based communion service partakers are still full members of the church.
  2. They allow home-based communion service with some prescriptions on how to conduct it. If they allow, whether the home-based service is as valid as a sacrament that becomes the means of grace when it's performed by the church pastor at church.
  3. They are silent on this
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  • I grew up in Baptist and Assembly of God churches, and the thought of Protestant churches assigning any meaning other than memorial makes my head slightly explode. – RonJohn Feb 10 at 4:33
  • @RonJohn Yes, having been in Baptist & AofG churches briefly in the past I can relate. I myself grew up in a mainstream Reformed church whose teaching goes back to Calvin himself, thus the Lord's Supper is a sacrament. Looks like later Reformed became more memorial unlike the early Reformers, see wikipedia. – GratefulDisciple Feb 10 at 7:48
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Different denominations within Protestantism would have different answers to this. The Church of England (especially Anglo-Catholic) would have a very different idea to an Open Brethren Assembly, for example.

The objection of potential 'schism' or 'disunity' cannot apply when circumstances prevail in which the separation (of households) is due, solely, to a definite requirement that cannot be overcome.

Of course, views differ as to the concept of a 'memorial' or a 'sacrament' and as to whether the process is one of the 'remembrance' of Christ by the congregation or the administering of a 'sacrament of grace' to the congregation.

There is no prescription in scripture that any particular individual is required to administer the elements, bread and wine, or the blessings and prayers associated with those elements. In the generality of Protestantism, an elder would normally do so. Or a minister or pastor if one were presiding.

Paul states 'when ye come together', so it is a gathering of the whole church in that particular locality and the partaking represents one body, that is to say His body broken that One Body may be joined, in Him, to God.

Similarly, of the cup, Jesus says 'drink ye all of it' the 'all' being all that is of Christ's body in that particular locality.

But in such a time as circumstances enforce households to be separated, surely Protestantism should, in its being based on scripture rather than tradition and on faith rather than sacraments, allow of household memorials of the sufferings and death of Christ.

For if, in the present state of the Church, a household finds itself in the situation where no local gathering sufficiently answers to the Body of Christ or to the true preaching and teaching of the gospel, should not such an individual household in a particular locality remember the Lord in his death (in the way which he prescribed) until he come ?

For Jesus said 'where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst'.

And if only two or three, due to circumstances, are the sum total of the body of Christ in one place at one time, shall they not remember Him who is in their midst, with bread and wine, as He, himself, exampled ?

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  • Thank you. Yes, I expected different denomination will have different answer, so I narrowed the question to only consider those that see the Lord's supper as a sacrament of grace rather than remembrance. – GratefulDisciple Feb 9 at 22:52
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Different Protestant denominations will have different views on this, and it is relatively easy to tell which view applies.

At the risk of oversimplification the two main camps are:

  1. Communion is a sacrament that is in some sense a means of grace.
  2. Communion is a memorial that of itself conveys no benefits other than the beliefs and state of mind it engenders in the participants.

Denominations that fall into camp 1 usually restrict performance of communion to priests or other appointed ministers. For those denominations a home communion would be at best a violation of church rules and at worst sacrilege. This would include Lutherans, Anglicans and Episcopalians.

Denominations that fall into camp 2 would see your communion as entirely valid, as long as you weren't trying to set yourself up as an alternative to church. However some would frown on the practice for church discipline reasons. you should check with your church leadership. However it would not be "a sacrament that becomes the same means of grace" because they don't believe that the ceremony conveys grace of itself at all. This would include Baptists, Anabaptists and most independent evangelical churches.

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    Your answer is along the line that I'm looking for, +1. I updated the question for more details for an acceptable answer. Can you include the theological reasoning for the church rules for camp 1, since they also believe the priesthood of all believers? Reformed is the most interesting one because it looks like they are in camp 1 yet don't seem to endow ministers with special grace for communion. I would especially like to learn the reasoning for Camp 1 if they disallow home-based communion, esp. if conducted exactly like at church (words, gestures, equipment), so no grounds for sacrilege. – GratefulDisciple Feb 9 at 23:14
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    Being a sacrament/means of grace doesn't have to necessitate that it's performed by clergy. Baptisms are generally accepted as valid even if not performed by clergy in pretty much all the Protestant churches I know of. But... they do treat communion differently. (Unjustifiably IMO.) – curiousdannii Feb 10 at 2:29
  • I'm only talking about general similarities, not absolute rules. – DJClayworth Feb 10 at 4:17
  • One way to implement family communion is to resume the practice of the Reformed churches issuing communion token after catechetical instruction (to prevent sacrilege) has been given to members, and extend the instruction for approving heads of family to do communion at home. It can work! – GratefulDisciple Feb 11 at 20:57

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