Material History of American Religion Project

The Communion Credit Card

The history of the church in America is full of various ingenious ideas to increase membership and participation. Often they rely on some kind of reward or prize for good attendance. Since at least the late nineteenth century, church supply catalogues have been full of certificates, pins, banners, and such emblems of good church membership.

The author excerpted here suggests turning these methods to increasing participation in the Lord's Supper. Samuel Blair, in The Master's Memorial (1930), a compendium of ideas for "enriching" the communion service, suggests using a "Communion Credit Card." Regrettably, the credit card has nothing to do with financial transactions. Rather, it is a clever way of harnessing peer pressure to get more people to receive communion on a regular basis. Blair himself was most likely a Methodist. Note at the end the focus on neatness and efficiency.

A method which may be adopted with much profit as a means of stimulating interest and maintaining attendance at Communion, is the introduction of the Communion Credit Card. These cards, which are regular filing-card size, carry a small facsimile cut of Da Vinci's "The Last Supper," the margins being occupied as follows: Top, "Communion Credit Card," name and location of church, "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you"—The Master. Lower margin, "Do this in remembrance of me," "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples," with provision for the name and address of the holder. The left and right margins are each set off in twenty-four blocked spaces with names of the month inscribed on the inner spaces, while the outer or edge spaces are left blank for checking purposes. The cards are thus valid for two years. The reverse carries a personal message from the pastor. The cards are mailed to the members previous to each Communion, preferably two or three days in advance, and are collected at the door and later checked or punched.

To make this credit system even more attractive and effective, a large chart, containing the names of the membership, with twelve small monthly blocks opposite each, may be located conspicuously in the narthex. Stars are affixed in the blocks on the following basis: Gold, communed; Silver, out of town, or communed elsewhere; Yellow, sick; Red, absent; Green, unavoidably detained (having a reason which he or she can conscientiously offer to the Lord). Midget stars are used in order to conserve space when the membership is large. At the end of the year the chart is cut into strips, one going to each member, bearing its silent message, its golden testimony to that individual's respect for and loyalty to the Master's behest, or otherwise as the case may be. Besides, a "golden testimony" (nine gold stars out of twelve in one year) entitles the communicant to a place on the Honor Roll and mention in the Church Calendar. This is a tremendously effective scheme. In securing the services of some one to take charge of the credit system care should be exercised to the end that the individual selected should be of a methodical nature, possessed of a fondness for attention to details, and above all, pride in the neat appearance of that work.

It would not, of course, be surprising if objections were encountered in connection with the introduction of this or any system of its kind, in conjunction with the Lord's Supper. But was it not the Lord Christ himself who, in the parable of the great supper, uttered these words, "Come, for all things are now ready?" And when those invited "with one consent began to make excuse . . . the master of the house . . .said to his servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." (Luke 14:17, 189, 21, 23)

It means work to keep this system functioning efficiently, but it will repay to the last full measure every investment of time and talent.

Samuel Blair, The Master's Memorial: A Manual for the Enrichment of the Communion Service (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1930),

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