We will begin sharing the wine this Sunday at 10:30. I, along with our worship committee, after listening to the feedback from our congregation at the forum, as well as the guidelines from the diocese, considered this question carefully. We will try out this method for a month or so and then evaluate how it is going! As with everything in this era, we will learn together as we go! So please feel free to offer feedback to me or a member of the worship committee, as we live into this practice anew, and have the chance to share more fully in the banquet that Christ lays for us.
Here’s the plan! Essential elements in bold, details and explanation following.
- Gather around the circle, as we have been doing, to receive the bread. Gluten free wafers will continue to be available.
- If you feel comfortable doing so, remain in the circle until everyone present has received. My understanding is that both James and Maryjane had different ways of interacting with this beautiful practice of sharing the time gathered at the table (by saying “Go in peace” or something similar after everyone had been served), and I’m going to add my twist on it! I don’t think you need me to dismiss you. After all, the practice of looking around the circle to be sure everyone has been fed is all of our work together. So once everyone gathered has been fed, you can depart together.
- There will be two stations for wine at either side of the bima (platform). Both sides will have a chalice with wine; you can drink the wine directly from the chalice, but please do not intinct (dip the bread in with your hand). On the left side as you look at the cross, the Eucharistic minister will have small cups with wine for people who are sensitive to gluten, as well as small cups with grape juice for people who do not or cannot drink wine. This allows people who prefer to not receive the chalice to return to their seats. Intincting is generally thought to be the least sanitary option, as it often ends up with people inadvertently touching the chalice or the wine. The chalice will be carefully wiped, with a clean piece of cloth, with a great deal of force, which generates friction and does kill germs. However, this practice might not feel safe to you at this time, and that is okay! Our Episcopal theology has always considered “communion in one kind” (aka just the bread) to be full communion, and of course, we have had that experience of communion exclusively over the last two years!
A couple questions that seem likely to come up:
Why not use little cups (like my Methodist/Lutheran/etc. friends)? Our diocesan guidelines do not allow for pre-filled little cups to be consecrated on the altar. Our liturgy assumes that there are one or two vessels for wine on the altar from which wine is shared. We can pour from those vessels into small cups at the altar after the Eucharistic prayer, or directly into a small cup that someone is holding, and those are approaches we considered. However, there didn’t seem to be an option that didn’t involve some degree of mess, or the altar guild washing many tiny cups after the service, or adding single-use plastic into our common life.
Why not receive the wine while we’re gathered around the bima?
Since we are assuming not everyone will want to share the wine at this time, the method we chose seemed like the best way to both offer wine and preserve the sense that we were all gathered together sharing a meal.
Can I still receive communion at my seat?
Yes! Just let an usher know and we will bring it to you.
Can I just take a little cup even if I don’t need grape juice or a gluten-free option?
I mean, I don’t think the Eucharistic Minister is going to interrogate you, but that’s not in the spirit of what we’re doing. If you’re up for gathering a washing crew to volunteer to take care of all the tiny cups after the service every week, we can definitely talk about that!
It seems counter-intuitive to think that drinking from a shared chalice will not result in spreading germs; why can’t we intinct?
There is one older scientific study that does show (and explain) why drinking from the chalice in the way that we do it (with wine with a high alcohol content that kills germs, wiping vigorously and rotating the cup between people) kills most of the germs. It probably does not kill all germs. However, this study did show that intincting does lead to more germs in and on the chalice (and observing people intinct backs this up!) While COVID does not generally spread most easily via surfaces, drinking from the chalice should not be considered a risk-free practice.
What will we do at 8:30?
The same thing we have been doing. We’ll change it up if we start to get so many people that we need multiple gatherings of people at the bima.
If you have another question not answered here, please ask it of me or of a member of the worship committee!