Throughout the Church’s history, the ways in which God’s people have celebrated The Lord’s Supper, Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, has taken and continues to employ different practices and take new shapes. For instance, based on stories in the Gospels, it is believed that some early Christians had Bread and Fish Eucharists! Some worshipped in groups in homes, some went to church. Some receive at a Communion Rail, some standing at a Communion Station, and to this day some churches seat people at a table in groups of Twelve to pass the bread and wine around the table to one another. There are even a few churches for which Holy Communion consists of washing one another’s feet, as The Last Supper is described in the 13th Chapter of the Gospel according to John – which description includes no mention of bread and wine whatsoever!
Today, due to the ongoing Pandemic, new patterns of Holy Communion are being tried in churches throughout our diocese and throughout the Church worldwide! Here in the Diocese of Maryland, there are certain restrictions outlined in the Diocesan Guideline for Phase Orange: the Celebrant will both wash his or her hands and sanitize them; will wear a mask during the Prayer of Consecration; and will be the only person to receive the Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood; all others present will receive only the Bread – the Body of Christ. This is consistent with centuries-old Eucharistic Theology that says communion in only one-kind is full communion.
How the Body of Christ is distributed to those attending is a matter up to each local congregation. Having reviewed how different parishes in the Diocese are doing this, and per The Guidelines to keep the length of time that people are in church short, we have decided to distribute the Bread on the way out of Church. The Celebrant will stand near the entrance to the Church, wearing nitrile gloves and mask, and will drop the wafer into your outstretched hands. There will be markings on the floor of the church to help in maintaining a six-foot distance between parishioners on the way in and out of church.
We are all asked to sanitize our hands on the way in and the way out of church. No-Touch sanitizing stations have been installed at all entrances in all three of our buildings: the Church, Parish Hall and The Annex (offices). Everyone must wear a mask covering both mouth and nose throughout the entire service. Extra masks will be available for those who may forget to bring one. Singing will not be allowed, but we are allowed “to hum” along with any instrumental music that may be playing with the mask still on.
To meet the guidelines, the number of lessons will be reduced, the sermon shortened, and there will be only one or two verses of hymns played, with a minimal number of musical selections each week. Passing the Peace will be exactly that – a bow or a wave while standing in place, no handshakes or hugs allowed.
This will all take some getting used to, and as with everything else, will be subject to change – circumstances alter cases! But then, those who endeavor to faithfully follow Jesus have always been open to change from the very beginning. Saint Benedict in his Rule of Life reminds us that those who follow Christ are those who are open to Always Begin Again! Each day calls us to new ways of being God’s People, if in fact that is truly who we want to be. As Joshua announced to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We are those people who do not follow our own desires, but rather in our baptism we promise to follow obey Christ as Lord. This is why we read and re-read the four Gospels and all of the Bible – to see where he goes, who he spends his time with, what he says, what he does and thereby come to know who we are and whose we are, and what we are called to Be and to do.