Davenant Trust Offers Matching Donation for Research on Reformed Eucharistic Practice

Gregory Soderberg, a Christian school teacher and Ph.D candidate at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, has spent the last several years researching the practice (or non-practice) of weekly communion in the Reformed churches throughout their history, and the theological arguments for or against it. In December 2014 he launched, with the Davenant Trust’s support, a crowd-funding campaign on GoFundMe.com to raise support for his annual study stints in Amsterdam. Mr. Soderberg’s dissertation is provisionally titled “‘As Often as You Eat this Bread’: The Historical Backgrounds of the Weekly Communion Debate in the Reformed Tradition, with Special Reference to the American Reformed Churches”

The Davenant Trust committed to match the first $1,250 donated, thus covering the $2,500 Gregory needs for his travel and study in the coming year. Over two months, the fundraiser raised 90% of its target. Mr. Soderberg expressed his surprise at such a successful fundraiser and said, “I’m incredibly thankful for the support and generosity of the Davenant Trust!”

Mr. Soderberg summarizes the importance of his research as follows:

It is well known that John Calvin desired to hold weekly communion services in both Strasbourg and Geneva. However, many in the Reformed tradition have rejected this idea. Infrequent communion is the norm and weekly communion is a minority practice in Reformed churches. In some Reformed polemics, weekly communion is viewed as a “Roman Catholic” practice. From the perspective of historical theology, this study is relevant because it will provide the first systematic examination of the debate, particularly in the Anglo-American tradition. For Reformed theology, this study is significant because it forces us to re-examine many of the standard assumptions about the purpose of communion by revisiting the sources. For ecumenical theology, the issue is significant because, like many Reformed churches, both the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox churches have struggled with communion reluctance, and this study makes it possible to compare causes and backgrounds of this phenomenon. For Reformed churches, this study will provide a much-needed resource for conducting the ongoing debate on weekly communion in a historically sound and informed way.