By JB Brayfindley
Although the services may be pre-recorded, the worship service is viewed ‘live.’ The music, the prayers, the liturgy are familiar. The time is the same as the typical Sunday morning worship. However, the place is different. Everyone is at home.
For Holy Communion, that might seem like too big of a hurdle to overcome, but some local churches are asking members to prepare for sharing communion this Sunday by getting some bread and juice ready at home. Then, during the ‘live’ service, the pastor will conduct Holy Communion and consecrate the elements online.
This online practice has been recommended by the Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction in a letter to local church pastors released on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
It reads, “Moving to online communion provides us with an opportunity to deepen our congregations’ understanding of Holy Communion…”
The letter also makes clear that safety remains a concern. The bishops invite pastors to have people use what is on hand and familiar.
“We don’t want to increase people’s anxiety or jeopardizing their safety by requiring a trip to the grocery store during this time.”
“We are encouraging everyone to participate at home with whatever they have at home,” said one California-Nevada Conference local church representative explaining that they are planning on using the online option this week for their members. They prepared by filming their pastor doing the communion litany ahead of time.
Another local church reports that they are sending an email out this week letting everyone know they will be celebrating communion on Sunday. They will ask members to set aside some sort of juice and bread for the occasion.
Most online Holy Communion kit supplies are back ordered, according to Los Rios Superintendent Schuyler Rhodes, who supports the online version or a phone call. “Handing out communion elements is dicey—I am not recommending it.”
“We trust the wisdom and the faithfulness of our Clergy to discern such pastoral matters in their own context,” notes the bishops’ letter. “…we support you, our Clergy in your efforts to find a way to bring the means of grace to God’s people knowing that the Holy Spirit who alone can make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world, is unfailingly with us.”