Communion in One Kind
Lent's first theme places mortality starkly before us: "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." Yet that theme is being brought home even more in our current public health concerns over the virus Covid-19. How vulnerable we are to the possibility of death and sickness. We are fragile creatures.
We are also communal creatures and as Christians, coming together as the Body of Christ is integral to who we are. Our response to potential public health threats must never be alarmist or reactionary. We need to go on with our lives in faith and without fear. At the same time it is crucial to respond to the threat of this virus, to get out ahead of it, and take reasonable precautions to contain it before it becomes a greater concern than it already is.
It is in this spirit that our Diocesan Bishop John Taylor has issued a pastoral directive for all congregations in the Diocese of Los Angeles. (HERE) Beginning this Sunday, Holy Communion will be shared in only one kind -- That is, only the bread will be distributed to the congregation. As we noted last week, chances of communicating most known viruses, such as the flu, through the common cup are negligible. Yet we don't know a lot about transmission of Covid-19 and so it is best to take precautions in advance of this virus moving more widely through our communities.
This situation also gives us an opportunity to reflect on our theology of the Holy Eucharist. At the Reformation, giving communion in both kinds -- the bread and the cup -- was a central way the priesthood of all the people of God was celebrated, not just the priesthood of priests! Our Anglican theology of the Eucharist has always recognized that Jesus is fully present in the Blessed Sacrament in both the consecrated bread and the wine. If we receive the bread Jesus is as equally present as when we receive both the bread and the cup. Often when clergy bring communion to the sick, they receive the bread only. While the body and blood of our savior are best given to us in both the bread and the cup, our reception of our Lord is not diminished by receiving him in only one sacramental sign.
We also ask this week that we refrain from unnecessary physical contact with one another. Please remember that while you may not feel you want to refrain from handshakes or hugs, other members of our community may wish to refrain from this contact for a time until the Covid-19 virus is more controlled. So, please respect everyone's level of comfort. Remember those other good general guidelines as well -- sneeze into your elbow (the "vampire sneeze") or into a tissue. Dispose of all tissues promptly, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Try not to touch your face especially if you have not washed your hands. Please know that even in distributing the consecrated bread, the clergy will wash or sanitize their hands immediately before distribution.
In the end, although we take appropriate and sensible precautions, God is still in charge. Do not forsake assembling together, but encourage one another as the writer of Hebrews puts it (10:25). It's important to gather as God's people. We need simply to engage in appropriate behaviors and practices to keep us all safe. We look forward to seeing everyone in Church on Sunday!