Our First Pew Commnion

For over 100 years St. Pauls only praticed altar communion. Members came forward at the end of worship to partake in the bread and the wine. Pew communion didn't become the standard practice until 1947. The reason for the change wasn't theological as much as it was logistical. The upcoming change was announced in the Spring 1947 Bote this way:

     We have been wishing to arrange for pew communion at St. Pauls for years, but due to the war we could not acquire the necessary communion ware which we need for that method of observing the Holy Supper. We have been informed that we shall now be able to acquire it. Therefore in the fall when we observe World Communion Sunday we shall very likely observe our first Pew Communion....Many will wonder what that menas. In a Church as large as St. Pauls, when we often have over 400 remain for celebration of communion, the actual distribution of the elements requires a good deal of time. The ritual connected with its observance must be hurried and many depart before the service is over. Of course that should not happen, but it is rather irritating to some to sit for an hour waiting for this part of the service to be consummated...We do believe when we become accustomed to this procedure, our communicants will grow in numbers. Perhaps we should add that very likely we shall also observe Altar communion at certain times of the year for the benefit of those who prefer coming to the altar.

As anticipated, pew communion was introduced on World Communion Sunday, 1947. Reading between the lines, it appears that some members weren't too happy about the change from bread to wafers, but the new method had the desired time-saving effect. The Bote reports:

   "One of the loveliest, most worshipful services ever held in St. Pauls." "I felt His presence today" were remarks which were heard after our first pew communion service at St. Pauls on Sunday, October 5. Some have asked why the communion wafers were used. That is the old Lutheran custom - the Reformed Church used bread. Most of us endeavor to concentrate on the Person which the symbols represent... We observe "pew communion" not primarily because a larger group can commune very quickly (544 received communion in fifteen minutes) but also because we believe the service has less distrubance, marching down the aisles, long periods of waiting, and a more worshipful spirit throughout the service.

St. Pauls practices both types of communion to this day. Pew communion - especially on big Sundays like Easter - and altar communion "for the benefit of those who prefer coming to the altar."