This coming Sunday, October 4, is World Communion Sunday. It has always been one of the most special days of the year for me. Sharing in the sacrament of holy communion with Christian believers around the world is a visible reminder that we all one human family in Christ Jesus and are called to make a difference wherever we are. Serving the sacrament this year, however, will be very different because of COVID-19.
It is possible to participate in Holy Communion, but special precautions need to be taken. Rev. Dr. Lanette Plambeck, who is our Director of Clergy and Leadership Excellence and leads our IAUMC Crisis Operation Team, has just published a third revision of our Iowa Conference Re-Entry Plan. This resource provides guidance and support for clergy and lay leadership as we continue through the COVID-19 Pandemic.
These are our current suggestions in regard to communion. Offering Baptisms and Communion/Eucharist safely will continue to be a challenge, as touching a face mask (to remove or shift it) contaminates it and brings with it varying levels of exposure. No contact must be attended to, as distribution of elements for communion is a risk to the communion steward as well as the recipient. In addition, it is advisable to avoid singing/liturgical responses in the sanctuary while the congregation is gathered.
One recommendation is to participate in The Great Thanksgiving at the end of the worship service by providing individual cups and bread. The elements must be provided by gloved stewards and placed in the recipient’s open hands upon exiting at the end of the service. This may mean some congregations will choose to further postpone offering in-person communion.
If your congregation is doing online worship, I recommend to you the document that we published on March 30 about online communion. That document includes these guidelines.
“The privilege of administering the sacrament in this way is granted to all elders and licensed local pastors under appointment in the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church and will be in effect until most churches are once again able to gather in person for worship. Permission is expressly and only granted for live worship, not for pre-recorded services intended for later use. I ask that you honor this important distinction.
“I grant this permission around the Sacrament of Holy Communion informed by the theological precedent set by the historic church known as In Extremis. In Extremis (in extreme circumstances) is a Latin term claimed by the church during the Black Plague; this approach allowed clergy to respond to a very extreme and difficult health crisis and guided the church in a response of care and hospitality.
“I believe this special provision for Communion during our current international health crisis is thoroughly consistent with our Wesleyan understanding of the sacrament.”
Resources for World Communion Sunday can be found here, including information about our annual World Communion Sunday offering. In 2019 $633,666 was given to ministries funded by this annual offering.
May God continue to offer us strength and wisdom for the living of these days.
A Prayer from the Africana Worship Book, Year B
JESUS PRAYED that we might be one.
One in spirit
One in mission
In union and communion with each other and with you.
Today, God, we confess fumblings and failures in accomplishing unity, as we set aside yet another day to remind ourselves of the task. On this World Communion Sunday, give us eyes to recognize your reflection in the eyes of Christians everywhere. Give us a mind to accept and celebrate our differences. Give us a heart big enough to love your children everywhere. We thank you for setting a table with space enough for us all!