OK, they’re not the altar calls made famous by Charles Finney and the 19th century evangelical movement, in which people respond to an invitation to approach the altar and make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus, although for Episcopalians they can be every bit as life-changing.
It’s been said that Episcopalians, and those in other liturgical traditions, have their own kinds of altar calls. They’re preceded by a Confession, an Absolution, then the receiving of Jesus – both on our lips and in our hearts (and this, literally so, depending on your Eucharistic theology, if you consider how the body absorbs the bread and wine).
The common denominators in both traditions are the yearning to make Christ a bigger part of our lives; the exercise of free will in choosing Jesus; and, of course, the experience of knowing Christ will forgive our sins and grant us reconciliation at the ask.
What is especially nurturing in the Episcopal tradition is the act of doing this not just once in life, but over and over again. A former Archbishop of Canterbury was once asked if he was saved, and his response was that, ‘he was saved, he was being saved and he would be saved.’ In other words, the life of faith requires continuous attention, the beatific journey suggests we avoid the plateaus and choose Christ at every turn.
In what ways has the Eucharist served as your altar call? Have you ever felt profoundly changed by Holy Communion? If you have an uplifting story, feel free to post it on the home page.