I had a conversation yesterday about “open communion” with a new parishioner who shared with me the story of her journey to the Episcopal Church. She came to Grace from a church in another state where open communion was practiced; that is to say, communion was not restricted to baptized Christians. I have written before on this issue and needn’t repeat myself. Certainly, our practice does exclude people–the unbaptized.
But there are other ways to exclude people. I’ve also been asked by members of Grace why I don’t address people by name when I distribute communion. The answer to that is simple. To do so is to elevate the relationship between priest and parishioner above the relationship between Jesus Christ and the one receiving communion. When I place bread in someone’s hand, or offer them the chalice, I am sharing Jesus Christ with them, not myself. I came across an interesting observation concerning this at Anglicans Online. You may read it here.
But there’s something else even more important. I don’t know everyone’s name who comes to the altar rail. I will never know the name of everyone who comes to receive communion, and to name some people while leaving others unnamed is to create distinction between insider and outsider, between those with whom I have a relationship and those I don’t.