Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
For the first time since the COVID 19 pandemic brought into the internet world of ZOOM worship services, we will be celebrating Holy Communion.
This will be optional for you all.
For those not participating: This is near the conclusion of the worship service thus you can simply reflect on the words of the Gospel or the Prayer of Thanksgiving until you join us in concluding the service with the hymn, prayer and blessing.
For those who would like to participate, we hope you can create a space that is meaningful to you. With this in mind, we ask you to prepare for communion by doing the following prior to the service beginning:
1. In your home, set apart a space for the Communion elements close to where you will be ZOOMing the worship service. Prepare your space you with a nice table cloth, a Cross, your Bible, or some flowers (or a combination). These items can beautify this space and mark it as special.
2. On this same table or shelf space place a plate with bread (or a rice cracker(s) as we have used in church) and glasse(s) with wine or juice in them. Consider what cup and plate might be meaningful to hold the elements of bread/crackers and wine/juice for you. If possible, you can cover these elements with a clean white cloth (napkin). When it comes to the point in the worship service where we have the offering, you can uncover the elements, getting the bread and fruit of the vine ready.
3. During the service, after the Prayer of Thanksgiving and Lord’s Prayer all will be invited to eat the bread, and following that, to drink the cup. You will be invited to lift your bread and wine at the same time as instructed and we will all partake the elements together.
There has been, and continues to be much discussion, around the world about whether or not such a form of Holy Communion is appropriate during this time of social isolation and physical distancing. The ELCIC Bishops released a statement in April/20 that states in part: “We trust you, Christ’s ministers of Word and Sacrament and Word and Service, to steward the mysteries of God that have been entrusted to you with integrity and grace. We know that your decisions will be made in conversation with congregational leaders and in a way that provides the best pastoral leadership to your communities. We know that in our Lutheran theological tradition Holy Communion is not necessary for salvation, but is a means of grace and one of the ways by which and through which Christ is embodied and proclaimed as God’s unconditional love for us.”
The ELCIC Bishops realize that we are worshiping during an “extraordinary circumstance”. This circumstance has been shown to have an indefinite timeline. Bishop Jason Zinko acknowledges that many members of congregations may wish to fast from the sacraments throughout the pandemic. They await the time that we can safely share it in person. Other members seek and feel the need for the comfort and grace of the body and blood especially in these uncertain times. Just as there have been baptisms performed at hospitals by nurses or doctors in life-threatening circumstances, so too this manner of celebrating Holy Communion is not intended to supplant the preferred practice, but rather to bring comfort for we who cannot gather and face an unknown future due to this unusual circumstance.
Many of you will remember Martin Luther’s words in the Small Catechism about Holy Communion (ELW page 1166): “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink… The words “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sin” show us that forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament through these words, because where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation… These words, when accompanied by the physical eating and drinking, are the essential thing in the sacrament, and whoever believes these very words has what they declare…”
These words of Rev. Martin Luther remind us that God is the one who acts in the sacrament; and that we can be confident that Christ comes to us even when we gather through an electronic means. On Sundays the words of our Lord are spoken. This Sunday the bread and wine will be taken into our bodies together with Jesus’ words, and we will do this trusting in the grace and mercy of God. "On Sunday we will be gathered together by the Holy Spirit, even as we are separated by circumstances – the communion of saints transcends time and place.” This we believe through faith. Thanks be to God!
Remember, participating in Holy Communion is optimal for each member at our ZOOM worship.
However, the idea of setting up a special space (or altar) for each Sunday is a good way to prepare for any worship service you attend online. It visually assures us that, even though we are in our own home, this blessed couple of hours out of our week is especially set aside for gathering and worshiping the Lord, praying and singing to the Lord, and being in the company of our beloved friends and family of God.
Thanks be to God!
Christ be with you all,
Pastor Laurel Seyfert