New book by North Alabama pastor explores John Wesley’s teachings on Holy Communion
Communion has a way of shedding light on both who we really are and who we are called to be. It is an honest meal. We come to the table being real with God through confession, and Christ comes to us in real ways through his presence, hospitality and grace. The Lord’s Supper binds us together in ways beyond words, for it is a sacred act of both receiving the grace of God and being the body of Christ with one another.
These words come from the Prelude of a new book by North Alabama Conference pastor Rev. Dr. Steve West.
The book titled Something Happens Here: Reclaiming the Distinctiveness of Wesley's Communion Spirituality in Times of Divisiveness has the stated purpose of taking a careful look at John Wesley’s core teaching on the Lord’s Supper. The About this Book introduction explains, “Readers will grapple with the idea that Communion is not just a personal experience with Jesus but a feast that has huge implications for our life together. They will be given language to define themselves against sacramental theology colored by other denominations in their communities. Along the way, they will discover tools to thoughtfully sort through difficult conversations about divisive matters rather than settling into the either-or and ‘us against them’ mentalities that pervade national conversations about culture wars.”
Rev. West, the senior pastor of Jacksonville First UMC (Cheaha District), is descended from multiple generations of Methodist pastors and circuit riders. He has not only a deep belief in the church’s sacramental theology but also a great love of the United Methodist Church. He notes that he wants this book to be a timely resource for United Methodists as the denomination journeys through a season of conflict and division. In that spirit, he says he offers the book as a gift for God’s church and has committed to using 100% of proceeds to go back into promoting the book because he believes “it is so very timely for those who are part of the present journey of the United Methodist Church.”
The book is a scholarly work receiving praise from a variety of United Methodist scholars and authors. Rev. West says, “I hope it will be helpful for the classroom, thought-provoking for church study groups, lifegiving for pastors and church leaders, and accessible for anyone interested in what it means to bind ourselves to Christ and move forward with joy into the future God has in store for us.”
In Something Happens Here West explores the historical background of each core characteristic of Wesley’s communion teachings, finds evidence in the writings of John and Charles Wesley and applies them to the struggles of present-day United Methodism. The unique features of Wesley's communion theology become lenses readers can use as they navigate troubled waters. Chapters include Communion as a Prism, The Mystery of Presence, Experiencing Anew, Become All Flame, Foretaste of Heaven, Grand Channel of Grace, Becoming the Body and Reconnecting. West concludes the book with signs of life emerging as people come back to the Lord's table to move forward into the future.
West writes, “The table is a radical table, because it brings us back to what connects us, which is not agreement or like-minded thinking but community and love-minded thinking. We are bound by our belief, yes, but I’m reminded that in early English, the word 'belief' was pronounced ‘by life.’ How we love those we don’t agree with is the very definition of Christian fellowship.”
The book is available from Amazon or Wipf and Stock Publishers. The book is also available for sale by the author. For a signed copy, see the author or send a check for $22 plus $3 shipping (total $25) to Steve West, 313 2nd Street NE, Jacksonville, AL 36265.