A proposal to the Council of Bishops to consider the continuation of Communion via electronic means.
Dear Holston Conference UMC Friends,
My dearest friends, this is the day that the Lord has made, and we rejoice in the gifts of this day and life itself. We have never lived this day before. Everyday continues to bring new surprises because of COVID-19. I have heard it said that we are literally building the bridge as we are walking across it.
So how do we celebrate this Holy Week with this extreme COVID-19 new reality? Every one of us can remember traditions of years past: Powerful worship services, Palm Processionals, Maundy Thursday communion, Tenebrae Services, Easter Sunrise followed by breakfast, crowded sanctuaries, magnificent music, Easter Egg Hunts, bountiful lunches with family and friends. So how do we do it differently and still rejoice?
Bishop Greg Palmer of the West Ohio Conference has introduced many of us to a new word describing these days. “In Extremis is a Latin term that came out of the European Black Death plague. It means 'in an extremely difficult situation' and came into being around the year 1530. In Extremis; arising out of contexts marked by extreme suffering and/or injustice … is marked by a willingness to respond to the invitation to go beyond one’s own situation and capacities, to accept overwhelming and powerlessness, (and) to adopt the undefended posture of Christian hospitality … .” In Extremis is the position of engaging in ministry because we are dealing with an extremely difficult situation that requires us to assume the posture of Christian hospitality.”
It is my understanding as your Bishop that I have the authority to grant permission during this extreme season for our clergy to consecrate the elements of bread and juice, online, as their congregations are gathered at home, so that all may receive the means of grace it alone supplies. The Holston Conference Cabinet supported the action on April 2, 2020. This is not a license to continue this practice when life returns to normal. Within our United Methodist heritage, when we can gather once again, we will return and remember the place of our Elders, Deacons, and Local Pastors licensed for sacerdotal (priestly) ministries.
Grace and Peace,
The United Methodist Church
“We believe the Sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening, strengthening and confirming our faith in him.
“We believe the Lord’s Supper is a representation of our redemption, a memorial of the sufferings and death of Christ, and a token of love and union which Christians have with Christ and with one another. Those who rightly, worthily and in faith eat the broken bread and drink the blessed cup partake of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner until he comes.” The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, Paragraph 104: Article VI – The Sacraments, pages 73-74.
With this in mind, people of your congregation may participate in Holy Communion from their homes as you lead online worship.
As with each pastor and local church, there are numerous expressions of presenting and receiving the bread and the cup, Christ’s broken body and shed blood.
Here is what is necessary for any expression, celebration or participation.
Service of Word and Table: Communion liturgy found in The United Methodist Hymnal, The United Methodist Book of Worship, or other appropriate source. The consecration of the bread and the cup provides the opportunity for the whole community to participate in the broken body and shed blood of Jesus.
Grape juice (have enough available for those gathered in your location): Grape juice is preferable. If you do not have grape juice, use your best judgment on a replacement. The point is to participate in the body and blood of Christ.
Bread or crackers (have enough available for those gathered in your location): Use your best judgment on what to use.
Pastor to lead the liturgy: You, as the pastor, should take the lead. Participating online will have special meaning and benefits. Holy Communion is still a community act of worship.
Share your experience: After receiving Communion online, please email Holston Communications, letting us know you participated in receiving Holy Communion. If possible, snap a quick photo and include it with your email as well. We share because we have not been here before. We are all learning. Sharing your experience helps all of us learn, grow and find new ways of being in relationship as the body of Christ.