Carla J. Bailey, Senior Pastor
A meditation given at
The Church of Christ at Dartmouth College
A congregation of the United Church of Christ
World Communion Sunday
Today is World Communion Sunday, a day when Christian churches are urged to focus their attention on Christ’s table transcending national boundaries and hostilities. World Communion Sunday originated in the Presbyterian Church in 1936, to cast a light on the need for a more global approach to our common Christianity. The Federal Council of Churches, which later became the National Council of Churches, caught on to the idea, expanding the practice of World Communion Sunday in 1940, during World War II, in hope that our common Christianity might be the means for making peace. The German Christian church, itself deeply divided over the place of Nazism within Christianity, was not inclined toward peace-making and the experience of Christianity in Japan was small and largely invisible. American Christians did not especially rally behind the notion of the Lord’s Supper as a way to peace so, though the concept was a good one, it was not widely noticed or practiced. After the war, the National Council of Churches tried to re-imagine World Communion Sunday as a day to express our unity within Christianity, across cultural barriers, but the international practice of designating a day to recognize our common Christian commitment at the table of Jesus Christ has remained an almost entirely American experience. And even within American churches, the practice of recognizing this day as anything other than an ordinary fall Sunday in which some churches have communion and some don’t, is largely dependent upon whether the pastors of those churches care very much about World Communion Sunday.
My name is Kudzayi Maposa. I live in Harare and attend the United Church of Christ at Glen View. I am a girl, age 16. I was born on the 20th of May, 1993. I am a member of Maranatha choir at church. Singing is my best talent. I just want to thank the Lord who gave me such a marvelous talent. I am very happy to contact you, our partner church. May the almighty God keep on giving us other chances of sharing words. As for my name, it is a Shona name and it means Respect in English. Pass my words to your wife Sarah and your daughter Evelyn.
Hello. My name is Otilia Mapeto. I am a married woman and have two daughters. The elder one is married and has two daughters. The second daughter is still at school. She is at a boarding school in Masvingo and is doing form two.
I am a school teacher and my husband is also a teacher. We love coming to church as a family. My husband is the vice-deacon of the church and I am a delegate of the church and we are also in the church choir. I am on the AIDS committee but we haven’t yet done anything due to financial constraints.
I myself am something of a hot and cold fan of World Communion Sunday. Over the years, I have observed World Communion Sunday by preaching about ecumenism within Christianity, about how Christians are so incredibly divergent in our beliefs and practices, it’s difficult to call us all by the same name – Christian. Still, we hold in common our common commitment to the table of Jesus Christ. But, the longer I’m in ministry, the more difficult Christian unity is for me to imagine and even more difficult for me to support. The compromises that would be required of some of my most deeply held convictions make the idea of Christian unity, at least American Christian unity at best, absurd, and at worst, the very thing that could bring about an end to Christianity altogether. So while I’m grateful that there is a common table within our Christian tradition to which all are invited, that is the extent of my commitment to Christian unity.
Hi. How are you? Me, I am fine. I hope you have a lot of fun. My name is Knowledge Buta and I am 14 years old and we are four in our family – two boys and two girls. We have space to share together as a family and we have a lot of fun. My father passed away 7 years ago when I was 7 years old. Now we are getting into winter and in winter we wear jerseys, wool hats, and so on. We are in church choir and everybody sings melodiously. May God bless you.
My name is Owen Dhliwayo and I am a member of Glen View UCC in Harare. I am married to Rejoice Mhururu of which our wedding was on the 7th of July, 2007. This April we were blessed with a baby girl whom we have christened Dionne Shannel. She is in good health. We are a young family.
This letter is written to any member who is very much interested in communication with my family. I have majored in English and History and am currently active in advocating for social justice through religious norms and values. My wife has majored in marketing and sales.
We incessantly pray for the growth of Glen View UCC and Dartmouth UCC partnership for a mutually beneficial relationship.
Dear friend in Christ,
My name is Tackler Machiwenyika. I have two children, Tinishe, 17 years old, and Lindsay, 14 years. We are a small, happy family. I was born in a family of nine children and now only three girls are left. Also, my parents died while I was very young.
I go to the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe. I like singing very much. I am a member of Ruwadzano, a group of women who fellowship together every Friday. In this group I am the project officer.
I like potatoes and chicken. Also, I like traveling. I will be happy if one day you will visit us here in Zimbabwe – it has so many beautiful places.
So, if not for the sake of Christian unity, why bother observing World Communion Sunday? Why not just ignore the World part of the title and celebrate this day as we do the first Sunday of every month – a normal, run-of-the-mill service of communion? Well, that would probably be fine, except for this one, nagging little inconvenience. We are not alone in the world. The world is big and complex and conflicted and dangerous and experienced in extremely diverse ways. We need tangible experiences that communicate to us that God, who is quite a bit bigger than the world, has not chosen American Christians exclusively to be the exemplars of what it means to be faithful. “God so loved the world”, the gospel writer John reminds us as he explains the source of our Christian experience– God so loved the world, that in an act of self-sacrifice, God gave us Jesus Christ that we might believe.
Hello, my name is Jane Dhlakama. I am a widow with five children. I have two sons and three daughters. I am a member of the Ruwadzano Women’s group and I am the vice-secretary. I sing in the church choir. I go to church every Sunday.
I do buying and selling of different things at home. I also sew different things, like seat covers, petticoats and other garments for my children. I grow vegetables to sell and for relish.
We have prayer groups in our Sections where we live. Our Section is called Makova and I am the chairwoman of the prayer group. We have evening prayers at 6 pm every Wednesday.
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. I am a boy, age 12, and my name is Donald Ngonidzashe Takafa and I am in a family of two – me and my sister. My sister’s name is Ruvarashe Charity. I live with my mother. My father is in South Africa, looking for green pastures. In my school, we have subjects like Shona, our cultural language, English, computers, maths, and content which includes many subjects. My sister is going to school next year. She is five years old.
We are enjoying seasonal changes here. We are now in the early winter season. Winter coughs are common in winter and whenever one of us have this cough, my mother looks for herbs in the backyard.
Here we eat several kinds of meals but mainly, at our breakfast, we drink coffee with pumpkins or sweet potatoes, or bread, or rice. At our lunch we eat sadza with pumpkin leaves. At our supper we eat sadza served with pork, mutton, or even beef. We make other relishes whereby we mix pumpkins with peanut butter.
Some months ago there was an outbreak of cholera. Many people died because of this disease. An organization called UNICEF helped us with free hospitality and aid.
Pass my greeting to all the members of your church and your friends. Here we are fine.
Ana and Tod Gobledale, who have served Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ as local ministers here in New Hampshire, in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and most recently in Australia at Churches of Christ Theological College near Melbourne, wrote a liturgy to help churches observe World Communion Sunday. The Call to Worship at the beginning of our service today was written by the Gobledales and so is this prayer:
“Loving and gracious God, who summons galaxies into being, we give thanks and blessings to you. We bless you for our world. The diversity of our planet amazes us - from the prairies and pampas of the Americas to the dusty deserts of Africa and Asia, from the majestic mountains of Europe, to the vast outback of Australia. We give you thanks for the multiplicity of humanity with our complexity of color and culture, yet called into oneness-of-being through Christ. With many tongues, yet with one voice, we honor you.”
My name is Tariro Mhururu. I am a girl aged 16, turning 17 soon. I have decided to be your friend. I love to communicate with different people. My favorite food is rice and chicken. In our family we are four, two girls and two boys. I am the last born. Now I live with my father and brother. My mother died when I was doing form 2.
My favorite sports are tennis and soccer. Sometimes I play soccer at school, only we don’t have enough equipment so it takes time to play. In my spare time I like to listen to music. I like hip hop. Every Sunday I go to church. I love to sing and dance.
My name is Wadvanayi Keta. I attend Glen View United Church of Christ with my husband, our daughter Chantrelle and sons Troy and Darrelle.
We are thankful for your prayers as much as we are to all others around the world. We also get solace from our church where we are involved in a variety of activities as we strengthen each other. May the good Lord continue to bless you for thinking of us.
In 1936, when World Communion Sunday was first conceived, it was no less difficult to imagine a God who loved the entire world than it is today – no less difficult and no less needed. Americans have a tendency toward conceit when it comes to internationalism. That is true of American Christianity as well,, as it considers the Christian faith of developing nations. Here, in the United States, Christianity grows ever more splintered and fractious and rigid. And that is why I am determined to observe World Communion Sunday – as an act of confession, to our Christian sisters and brothers around the world, and to God.
I am Makuyana Munaimbodeyi. Thanks very much for your concern about our situation in Zimbabwe. It is encouraging to hear that you are with us in prayers.
I have been married for the past 34 years and blessed with 3 sons and 3 daughters. I have five grandchildren between the ages of 8 years and 2 months.
Let’s keep on praying for one another for it is only God who knows our destiny.
It is only God who knows our destiny. Amen.
The letter excerpts quoted here were taken from letters sent to us from members of our partner church, Glenview United Church of Christ of Zimbabwe in Harare. Following worship on World Communion Sunday, our members wrote letters in response, sent in a packet of greetings to Glenview Church.