Last Sunday some of us gathered around tables laid with bread and wine for a 'virtual' communion service. It is an unusual way of doing things, but these are unusual times! Our video service can be found here. A transcript is available here.
Throughout the centuries an important part of the communion service has been that it is an act that binds us together. Under normal circumstances, we would only celebrate at times when we could be with others. The only exception has been when we administer home communion, but even that is done with a representative of the church (usually the minister) physically present.
The insistence on having a member of the clergy (or an authorized representative of the church) present, is to remind us of the sacredness of the occasion. St Paul cautions us to not treat the sacrament lightly or without due preparation. “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Corinthians 11:29 NKJV)
The judgment comes in the fact that we will totally miss the whole point of the sacrament. That it is a time when our Lord Jesus Christ promises to be especially present to our lives. We do ourselves and our families a great disservice if we treat this sacred time in a way that is casual or without being properly prepared.
For that reason, I took the time to offer a pre-video about 'preparing for the sacrament' to our congregation. (Can be viewed here) In it, I suggest using a white cloth to mark out an area to celebrate, to set aside a cup and plate for the particular moment, and to light a candle to remind ourselves that this is a holy time.
It is difficult to not to be together at the table. It is not the same being together around computer screens or I-pads. Yet that is the best we can do for the time being. Even when we do come back together we will have to limit the amount of touching and handling. Some congregations are experimenting with 'seal-able' elements, others suggesting to congregants that they need to bring their own bread and juice from home.
As we transition to a situation where we can gather 'with limitations' I am sure we will continue to discover constructive ways of being a community. I just pray that the sacredness and significance of the body and blood of Christ, represented through bread and wine, does not become devalued or treated without reverence. As Paul warns us, to not rightly discern the Lord's body is something to be avoided, for it has the potential of doing more harm than good.
For some music and further reflection Third-Day sing “Communion"
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.