Pastoral Letter on Christmas Eve Communion and on Communing During the Time of COVID
December 19, 2020
Brothers and Sisters,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father in the Lord Jesus Christ. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented set of circumstances for the modern church. We have had to adapt our communal and worship practices in several significant ways Including the implementation of social distancing and the wearing of masks in public worship. In the interest of public health, we have forgone, in some sense fasted from, the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. We have denied ourselves this paramount means of grace in the hopes of maintaining the physical health of our congregation. However, we must also balance the physical health of the congregation with the spiritual and emotional health of the congregation. To that end, we will resume celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion on Christmas Eve in accordance with the following protocols.
All communicants (those who will be communing) will social distance at the direction of the ushers. There will be social distancing lines spaced at six-foot intervals down the center aisle of the sanctuary.
All communicants will wear masks until they have received the communion elements from the communion servers. Once you have passed the communion servers, you may kneel at the altar rail and remove your mask to consume the sacrament.
All communicants will have their hands sprayed with an alcohol-based disinfecting solution before the sacrament is placed in their hand.
The pastor, as primary celebrant, and the communion servers, as assisting celebrants, will remain masked at all times during the communion ritual. The pastor and communion servers will also have their hands sprayed with disinfectant before touching the communion elements.
The sacrament may be received using on (1) of three (3) methods based on your comfort and risk levels.
A tray of pre-packaged communion elements (wafers and sealed juice cup) will be available. You will receive the pre-packaged elements and may return to your seat with them or open and receive them at the altar rail once you have passed the communion servers.
You may receive communion through our usual method of intinction. The pastor, using a pair of tongs, will hand place a communion wafer in your hand. You will then be invited to dip the wafer into a chalice containing wine (not juice). We will be employing wine since wine contains a percentage of alcohol, thus offering a small added layer of protection from the virus.
You may receive also communion in one kind. While our general practice is to receive communion in both kinds (In other words, our usual method of communion is to receive both the bread and the wine), a person may receive communion in one kind (in other words, just the bread or the wafer in this case) and the reception of the sacrament will remain valid. If you desire to receive communion in one kind, simply bypass the chalice once you have received the wafer. The theological understanding of this practice is that since the bread/wafer is sacramentally the body of Christ, then Christ’s body by necessity shall also contain Christ’s blood, just as our bodies contain our own blood.
Our hope is that we might return to our customary communion practice of using a bread loaf rather wafers, a chalice of juice rather than wine, in the near future. Once the coronavirus vaccines are more widely available and more fully distributed, we will revisit these protocols.
Yours in Christ,
Reverend Robert W. Licht
Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Sneads Ferry