World Communion Sunday may not be well known by everyone in the Christian community, but it is certainly an event that needs to be put on the Church calendar. Every year on the first Sunday in October, Christians around the world focus on the basic tenants of our faith to celebrate our unity in Jesus Christ. In a chaotic and divided world, World Communion Sunday is a day to remember that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and that Christians from any denomination or non-denominational churches throughout the world are one in Christ. We are all part of the worldwide family of God, which gives us a bigger perspective — a better perspective — of what God’s kingdom is like here on earth and in heaven. We draw strength and inspiration from seeing that we are part of a community that boasts millions of believers and worshippers.

I must admit that I had never heard of World Communion Sunday until recently, and I want to share about it now more than ever because we need the Church to be as one, united in mission and purpose as participants with an international perspective in what God is doing around the world. Before sharing some of the traditional ways of celebrating World Communion Sunday, below is a bit of history from an article in National Today, a magazine whose goal is “to gather all the special holidays and moments around the world — the occasions that bring people together — and help everyone celebrate.”

The history of World Communion Sunday

by National Today

John A. Dalles, a pastor from the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA), researched the history of this day. The origin of this day is a brainwave that came to Dr. Hugh Thompson Kerr, pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. He came up with this idea in 1930 when he served as moderator of the General Assembly. Dr. Kerr’s younger son, Rev. Dr. Donald Kerr, himself pastor emeritus of the Roland Park Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, stated that World Communion Sunday arose from the celebration at the Division of Stewardship at Shadyside. His father had attempted to bring churches together in service of Christian unity, and the idea grew from there.

Initially, this idea did not take hold. Whatever celebrations there were grew only incrementally, and people did not give this day a lot of thought. With the Second World War came an increased understanding of one’s own mortality, and the spirit of this day caught hold. This day symbolized the effort of bringing the world together, in a spiritual sense, thought Kerr. This celebration was adopted in the U.S., in the period during World War II, and soon, the organization, now known as the National Council of Churches, started endorsing and promoting the event to churches worldwide, led by their leader, Jesse Moren Bader.

Many celebrations revolve around the ‘Last Supper’ theme when Jesus Christ broke bread with his disciples right before he was betrayed by Judas. People even partake in the universal Christian practice of baking bread.

Today, this day is celebrated the world over, bringing together the unique flavor of all denominations with a strong individual spirit, just like the world we live in.

How to observe World Communion Sunday

What I appreciate about World Communion Sunday is that it is more than just words — it is words that lead to action, or as we frequently say at Medical Teams, “putting feet to faith.” Here are a few ideas to help you put feet to faith in celebrating World Communion Sunday.

1. Donate to a good cause

Celebrations for World Communion Sunday can include individual or church donations to a worthy cause locally or internationally. Give to your favorite charity organization or research organizations online. Of course, I highly recommend you donate to Medical Teams International. We serve those in need both here at home and around the world. After donating, take some time to learn more about the people and places who are impacted by your donation, and then pray for the people, the countries and the organizations serving them.

2. Listen to global music

Music transcends language and touches the human spirit. It’s an important part of any celebration, World Communion Sunday included. Of course listen to music that is familiar and meaningful to you, and also I encourage you to listen to music from other cultures and regions to broaden your experience and connect you to more people. To get you started, here is a YouTube playlist with some recommended multicultural songs from a previous year.

3. Bake bread

Bread is a featured staple in World Communion Sunday celebrations across the globe and is largely symbolic. For instance, in my Italian-American upbringing, bread was a prominent food on our table. Later in life I came to appreciate the role and purpose of the table while growing up. In our family, the table was more than just a place where we eat. The table is a place for coming together for storytelling and relationship — a place for building community and friendship.

I recommend you try your hand at baking some bread for your table. Try baking Nigerian flatbread, Irish soda bread, Japanese rice patties, or sourdough bread from San Francisco. You can also check out the Global Ministries website for different bread-baking recipes from around the world.

Celebrate World Communion Sunday

Whether you are familiar with World Communion Sunday or the idea is new to you, in a world full of division and sectarianism, focusing on what unites us based on the core tenants of the Christian faith is exactly what is needed. We are one in mission. We are one in purpose. We are one in Christ.

headshot of Joe Dicarlo

Joe DiCarlo

As global ambassador at Medical Teams, Joe elevates the significance of faith in our organization. He ensures our Christian identity permeates throughout all we do, promotes the spiritual growth and well-being of staff and volunteers, and represents the organization to external audiences.