Dear Friends in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just over two years ago, we were all shocked by the onset of a pandemic that upended our communities and our churches. Since then, many have suffered from the effects of the pandemic on our lives, our health, our loved ones, and our greater society. The last two years have been a time of profound upheaval.
Nevertheless, God has been present with us through this wilderness time. Most of our churches have discovered ways to broaden their ministries and adopt new technologies. Many have created new methods of worshiping, praying, and deepening our Christian faith online. As we enter a time of greater freedom now, we find great joy in our ability to worship together. While we are still cautious about future outbreaks, many of us are returning to pre-pandemic levels of worship and church activities.
Therefore, I believe it is time to make some additional changes to our worship protocols. Currently, the only prohibition that remains in effect diocese-wide is sipping from a common cup. Other protocols, such as mask-wearing, are decisions to be made by each congregation according to its circumstances. In my travels around the diocese, I have observed a number of ways that congregations are offering communion, from bread-only distribution to intinction by the priest, to offering communion in individual pre-packaged portions.
As we approach Holy Week and Easter, I believe it is time for every congregation once again to offer both bread and wine to every worshiper, and for the symbolism of the common cup to be re-established. The common cup is important theologically, as it represents the great theological truth that we are all members of one body, the Body of Christ. Therefore, by Easter, I ask you to offer communion to all worshipers in both kinds, using one of the following methods:
- You may offer bread that is intincted into the wine by the priest or deacon (with washed or sanitized hands) and dropped into people’s hands or placed in individual containers. Individuals should not intinct their own bread into the wine, as that introduces many germs into the cup.
- You may allow sipping from a chalice IF a second chalice is available that offers bread that is intincted into the chalice by a priest or deacon, as described above. That way people have a choice whether to sip from a common cup or to take wine from a cup no one has sipped from.
- You may consecrate a small amount of wine in a chalice (to be consumed by the celebrant) and a larger amount in a flagon, and pour wine from the flagon into individual cups. That method retains the symbolism of the common cup consecrated on the altar.
I leave it up to your congregation to decide which method will work best for you. Please note that if the pandemic worsens once more, we may need to re-institute some restrictions. Also, if you have been using individually pre-packaged bread and wine, you may use the rest of the stock on hand before switching to a new method, although I encourage you to offer the common cup in one of the forms described above for Maundy Thursday and Easter worship.
I pray for a deeply meaningful Holy Week and a joyous celebration of Christ’s Resurrection for all of you.