Communion is one of those sacred practices that every Christian denomination participates in. They don’t always agree about what it is, what it means, or what it should look like, but they all agree that it must be done.
That said, if I had to summarize the view of Gallagher’s The Sacred Meal towards communion in a few words, I would use Gallagher’s own writing to do it:
Rituals may seem to originate in magical thinking: we see the ancient practices of primitive people as methods to hold off or thank the gods, to ward off evil, to suck rain from the sky. But these are not to be dismissed as the inventions of ignorant people (77).
We, too, may come to Communion with twin desires: to give thanks and to seek a magical solution to a given problem. I see nothing wrong in the desire for magic; it’s who we are (84).
While Gallagher claims to be an Anglican, is a preacher in residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara, and sits on the advisory board of the Yale Divinity School, after having read this book, I can’t imagine why she would call herself a Christian. She definitely sits in the Universalist Mystic camp equating taking Communion with Buddhists meditating, Muslims feasting after Ramadan, and Native American rituals in the desert, all of which she has attended and “shared” in the experience. She talks about the exhilaration of praying to Allah with a group of Muslim women, etc. It’s all just a mystical means to experience something “beyond” ourselves.
The Sacred Meal gives very little space to the reason why we take Communion at all, namely Jesus Christ Himself. And when she does talk about Jesus, she imagines that Communion is birthed more out of Jesus feeding the five thousand than the Last Supper. Never mind that the only reason any Christian participates in communion is because Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me”, at the last supper (Luke 22:19). Gallagher says that communion is more like a shared meal and represents all the meals Jesus ate with His disciples. Never mind Paul’s whole diatribe on not making the Lord’s Supper just a meal in 1 Corinthians 11:20-34. If that’s all you’re getting together for, just eat at home.
Gallagher tries to avoid the association of the death of Jesus Christ and Communion at all costs. Whereas the Bible says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). This is what communion is all about, not some mystical mumbo jumbo. It’s the proclamation of the atoning death of Jesus Christ, and looking at in any other light leads to “[taking] the bread or [drinking] the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, [and being] guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27).
I do not and cannot recommend the The Sacred Meal to anyone.
I received a free copy from the publisher for review. Obviously all opinions are my own.