Bishop Leeland's Guideline for Online Communion During the COVID-19 Crisis
April 15, 2020
HOLY COMMUNION: Extending Christian Hospitality During the COVID-19 Crisis
(This is only to be viewed as temporary.)
The sacrament of holy communion is essential to Christian worship. Because of the pandemic that we are currently facing and the limitations that it imposes, we are offering an alternative way to share in this means of grace. This virtual communion service is a symbolic way of allowing the body of Christ to share in the Lord’s Supper. This temporary practice will allow the people of your congregation and online community to participate in Holy Communion from their homes as you lead online worship. Please note that is not a license to continue this practice when life returns to normal.
You might also consider the Wesleyan tradition of the Love Feast, which recalls the many meals that Jesus shared with his disciples and expresses the fellowship enjoyed by the body of Christ.
Specific Guidelines for the Practice for Online Communion:
(It is the position of this Bishop, that this privilege is for a season and that there will be a return to traditional practices in accordance with our liturgy as soon as possible.)
Within our Wesleyan heritage, we must remember the place of Elders, Deacons and Local Pastors licensed for sacerdotal (priestly) ministries, and thus Elders and Licensed Local Pastors will continue to have the authority to preside at the table.
Instructions for Leading Online Communion
“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, the members of your congregation and online community may participate in Holy Communion from their homes as you lead online worship.
Scriptural setting -
Holy Communion is celebrated in the context of worship. When you worship online, you are part of the context. When a Scriptural context has not been presented, read one of the following Scriptures, (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29), along with the following directives:
- Pastors are encouraged to lead the liturgy. You, as the pastor, should take the lead. Online Holy Communion is still a community act of worship best led by Clergy.
- Use the Communion Liturgy of Service of Word and Table found in The United Methodist Hymnal, or the United Methodist Book of Worship.
- Grape juice is preferable. (Please give prior notice to participants so that they have enough available for those worshipping in their location.) If online participants do not have grape juice, use your best judgment in recommending a suitable “fruit of the vine” replacement (like grapes). The main point is to participate in the body and blood of Christ.
- Use bread or crackers. (Please give prior notice to participants so that they have enough available for those worshipping in their location.)
- 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. Individual cups are encouraged but intinction may be practiced in individual home settings. Please also remember that communion may be celebrated using just one element, either the bread or the juice, but it will be important for you to explain that to those worshipping with you as they may not be aware of that practice.
- Be sure to close the Communion Service with prayer. If the Lord’s Prayer has not already been incorporated in the service, it can be used as a close to the communion time.
- Share your experience(s) of encountering the presence of Christ during this sacrament. Sharing your experience helps all of us learn, grow and find new ways of being in relationship as the body of Christ.
The Holy Bible
The United Methodist Hymnal
Bishop Paul L. Leeland, Western North Carolina
Bishop Tracey Smith-Malone, East Ohio
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, West Ohio