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 (1 Corinthians 11:29).
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 here at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in 1933, when the Reverend Dr. Hugh Thomson Kerr served as pastor.
John A. Dalles, a Pittsburgh native, a friend of Shadyside, and a PC(USA) pastor who has researched the history of World Communion Sunday, reported in the October 7, 2002, issue of Presbyterian Outlook:
“Davitt S. Bell (the late Clerk of Session and church historian at Shadyside) recalled that Dr. Kerr first conceived the notion of World Communion Sunday during his year as moderator of the General Assembly (1930). Dr. Kerr’s younger son, the Rev. Dr. Donald Craig Kerr, who is pastor emeritus of the Roland Park Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, was sixteen in 1933. He has related that World Communion Sunday grew out of the Division of Stewardship at Shadyside. It was their attempt to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity—in which everyone might receive both inspiration and information, and above all, to know how important the Church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected one with another.”
Celebration of World Wide Communion Sunday was adopted as a denominational practice in the Presbyterian Church (US) in 1936. Churches in other denominations were invited to celebrate with us from the beginning, but it was not until 1940, when the Department of Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor body of the National Council of Churches) promoted extending the celebration to a number of churches around the world, that the practice became widespread. Today, World Communion Sunday is celebrated around the world, transcending boundaries of denomination, geography, and language.
Text partially adapted from resources available at www.pcusa.org/worship.
About the Artwork: This six-foot banner at the denominational offices in Louisville was created to illustrate the Peacemaking Offering for World Communion Sunday on October 5, 1997. This design was originally drawn in oil pastels by Dorothea B. Kennedy and was translated into fabric by Gloiela Yau Dolak. As the mountains and hills rejoice, the thirsty of all nations are invited to come to the water; the hungry are invited to come to the table. Everyone is welcome.