chapter  4
The Lord’s Supper in Crisis
Pages 21

If sermons were the most regular fi xtures of the liturgical calendar, then communion celebrations represented climatic moments of the year by bringing together members of the community in a united celebration of Christ’s last supper. As a social and spiritual ordinance, the communion, however, could evince powerful emotions. Authorities urged stringent social and spiritual requirements of celebrants and the potential of the divine punishments for those who received the sacrament without merit. 1 As one of the main points of contention in changes to Scottish liturgy in the 1630s, Scottish ministers clashed over the distinctly Scottish style of communion: with celebrants arrayed, sitting, around a simple wooden table with communal distribution of the bread. 2 In the mid-seventeenth century, communities continued to tackle the parochial aspects of communion celebration while attempting to maintain its purity. However, the subscription of the National Covenant and subsequent military activity served to heighten the divisive potential of communion further. The communion table became another site where central authorities refi ned defi nitions of loyalty. As one saw with discipline, Covenanter leaders devolved the application of these new defi nitions to local authorities. However, the widespread desire to celebrate communion interacted uneasily with the heightened impulse to protect the sacrament from irreverent behaviour of soldiers and the sinful courses of political enemies. Congregations continued to hold a degree of agency in negotiating the rigours of a cherished sacrament and the challenges raised by rebellion and invasion.