Eucharistic Practice in the Church of Scotland Today

Stuart Louden and David Beckett, with comments by Tom Torrance

Two papers given at the Annual Meeting of the Church Service Society in 1983 given by the Revd R Stuart Louden and the Revd David Beckett. They are followed by a Comment by the Revd Professor T F Torrance.

Stuart Louden finds unseemly irreverence and trivialisation in some common practices, such as how the elements are shared, certain rules and regulations regarding admission to Communion added by Assemblies, the practice on the part of some ministers of receiving the elements after the elders or even the congregation. A substantial section discusses holiness in the context of outlining a theology of the Sacraments which is bedded in true catholicity, citing books by Donald Baillie and Harry Wotherspoon. He laments an absence of devotion and reverence in many congregations, caused by a lack of vital belief in God the Holy Trinity, the supreme Christian mystery, related to a Unitarian outlook strand in Protestant piety.

David Beckett, Louden’s successor at Greyfriars, in responding to his paper, endorses his main message and his call for worship that is fully trinitarian and doxological. He is less supportive of quarterly Communions, finding that (taking the evidence from attendance at preparatory and thanksgiving services) the momentum of the former pattern has collapsed, and that the attempts to continue that makes for too much pomp and circumstance which makes it more difficult for congregations to welcome more frequent celebrations. He criticises the 1979 Book of Common Order for its lack of alternative orders for Communion, and welcomes services of a different atmosphere and ethos. He calls for better sound teaching in college and from the pulpit. With regard to Louden’s call for the transcendental to have prime place, while agreeing he also reminds that there is also a human element, but they must not be polarised. And we must remember that God’s grace is stronger than our disobedience.

T F Torrance makes three comments: the unfortunate absence of the pouring of the wine as counterpart to the breaking of the bread; the too great a focus in the Latin and Western tradition, which we follow, on the body and blood and not enough on the Resurrection; the conflating of the coming of the Holy Spirit with the eschatological final Advent of Christ devalues the latter.

Volume 05 Summer 1983, p3