Online Communion for a COVID World (3/27 Update)
Can we, how could we, how will we celebrate communion during COVID-19?
I have missed gathering together physically and seeing everyone, sharing a handshake, a hug, or a howdy. I miss hearing our voices praising God in prayer and song together. And maybe most of all, I miss partaking of the simple meal of Christ’s body broken and blood shed together.
Aside from a very rare bad-weather service cancellation, the past 2 weeks of virtual worship have been the first in TFC’s history where we have not celebrated the Lord’s table together. We have scrambled to connect as well as we can with Word, song, and prayer. But how can we share Eucharist virtually? Is that a thing? Is there a special prayer or action needed?
Well, not really. We aren’t the first generation in the church to raise the question and find direction from God’s word and the faithful saints who have gone before us. The New Testament epistles speak to the reality of the church being connected mysteriously, even though at times separated physically or across time.
“For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ” (Col 2:5); “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit” (1 Cor 5:3).
Although Paul writes from his unique situation, he describes a truth for all believers. We individually and collectively “participate” “in Christ” and His life. That is part of what it means to share koinonia, “communion.” The Apostle’s Creed declares: “We believe in the communion of saints.” We confess with the Nicene Creed a belief in “one” church--a mystical union of saints across time and place.
Which is theological set up to say that by identity we should be compelled to celebrate our “participation/communion” with Christ (vertically), and our “participation/communion” with one other, especially when we are compelled to stay apart by social distancing.
“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1Cor. 10:16-17).
And when we participate together across our physical separation, it is all the more reason to consider our oneness as the body of Christ (1Cor. 11:27-28).
Across church history, much has been writing about the unity of the church’s eucharistic celebration. In AD 155, Justin Martyr gave instructions for the elements of the Lord’s supper to be taken from the gathered community for distribution to the shut-ins and sick after the service.
"When our prayer is ended, bread and wine are brought, and the leader of the service offers prayers and thanksgivings. The people say, 'Amen.' The bread and wine for which he has given thanks are then distributed to each person. Then the deacons take a portion of the bread and wine to those who are absent."
Reformer Martin Luther recorded the ministry of the German church during the deadly Bubonic plague which wiped out much of Europe in the 14th century (at a much higher fatality rate than COVID-19). Luther wrote a letter, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,” to encourage and challenge those engaged in spiritual ministry to remain steadfast in the face of peril.
"For when people are dying, they most need a spiritual ministry which strengthens and comforts their consciences by word and sacrament and in faith overcomes death."
So we can, should, and will resume celebration of the Eucharist this Sunday. But how?
Let me provide some guidance on how you can celebrate communion in your home, together with our church body this Sunday morning during our online service.
• Find some bread (unleavened is fine but not necessary).
• Set apart bread from wine or juice, whatever you have on hand.
• I will pray a prayer of consecration and blessing for the bread and cup in the service, which includes a prayer of blessing for our church receiving it. I will include it here for you below, to pray as it fits for you and your family.
• Partake together, receiving the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ by faith in your hearts.
• Feel free to partake during the service, or press pause on the video and resume when you are finished.
• Give thanks! That’s why it is also called “Eucharist.”
The grace of God we come to know in the sacrament does not come through the minister or magic words. We all have the same access to God through Jesus Christ. Our preference is clearly to celebrate together physically and the called leadership of our church family. But in this extraordinary time, we not only CAN, SHOULD, and WILL celebrate together. We NEED to.
Will you participate with me together this Sunday morning, and Sundays going forward?
(When supplies arrive, we do hope to have available for pick up at the church individual packaged communion cups with bread for your convenience. Until then, keep it simple.)
Let’s keep moving together INTO the remarkable love of Jesus Christ.
Eucharistic Prayer of Consecration and Blessing
from ACNA Book of Common Prayer, 2019
THE PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and when we had sinned against you and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent your only Son Jesus Christ into the world for our salvation. By the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary he became flesh and dwelt among us. In obedience to your will, he stretched out his arms upon the Cross and offered himself once for all, that by his suffering and death we might be saved. By his resurrection he broke the bonds of death, trampling Hell and Satan under his feet. As our great high priest, he ascended to your right hand in glory, that we might come with confidence before the throne of grace.
At the following words concerning the bread, hold the bread (you may also break the bread); and at the words concerning the cup, hold the cup or any other vessel containing the wine or juice.
[The words of institution]
On the night that he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it,* and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my Body, which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me.”
Likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you; for this is my Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you, and for many, for the forgiveness of sins: Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.”
We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and we offer you these gifts.
Sanctify them by your Word and Holy Spirit to be for your people the Body and Blood of your Son Jesus Christ. Sanctify us also, that we may worthily receive this holy Sacrament, and be made one body with him, that he may dwell in us and we in him. In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us with all your saints into the joy of your heavenly kingdom, where we shall see our Lord face to face.
All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.
3/24 Update from Pastor Keith
But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face (1Thess. 2:17).
1. REMEMBER WHAT IS REAL:
- God is sovereign and good, Jesus is reigning and redeeming us, and the Holy Spirit is present and powerful. Be hopeful.
- Fear is real, and everyone is suffering loss. Be compassionate.
- We are the church, the beloved bride of Christ, privileged to share in His mission and work in the world at this very time! Be the church!
- We are not recreating the church. Our call is to be the church in all our interactions virtually and physically, to our families and neighbors.
- God has given our church a mission, unique values, and a growing vision.
- We need each other to for encouragement and service
- For many our spheres of influence have shrunk to essential trips to the store and walks in our more-active-than-ever neighborhoods. With good social distancing ask folks how they are doing, how you can pray for them, if they have any needs, and if they would like to connect with our church family.
- Take a PRAYER walk. Getting out to walk is good for you. Making it a prayer walk for your neighbors, our community, and church family makes it great.
- Conflict is an opportunity to glorify God. Everyone working, studying, and playing at home can provide opportunities for conflict. “Forgive as you have been forgiven,” and “as much as it depends on you, live at peace.”
- TrinityFellowship.org, Facebook @TrinityFellowship, Instagram TFCRichardson
We are keeping these sites updated with scheduled online gatherings, links to virtual meetings, and resources for your family and groups.
- SUNDAY MORNING 9:30 streaming on Facebook // WEEKLY connection groups and studies // DAILY & FREQUENTLY gatherings for children, youth, adults. We are even thinking about how to host some virtual game nights.
- BE SOCIAL WITH YOUR MEDIA. We would love for everyone to share what they are up to with their days, how God is meeting them with hope. We created a LINK for you to upload a brief video (2-3 minutes or less!) or pic(s) so we can share on our social media or sunday morning stream. Tag us at @TrinityFellowship.
- PARTICIPATE IN HOLY WEEK. We would love to collect a few things from individuals and families for our easter week gatherings. 1. Send a video clip of you virtually sharing the familiar and ancient Christian Easter greeting, “Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed. Hallelujah!” 2. Also be thinking how you can share you best family “photo-booth” pic on the church FB page on easter morning.
- BE FAITHFUL IN STEWARDSHIP. Your ongoing financial gifts will help us keep things moving together locally and globally through our ministry partners. Giving online is simple. Click here. If you are able to give sacrificially to our benevolence fund to help those in our church family and community with what will be developing and ongoing financial needs, just note “benevolence” on any gift.
3/18 Update from Pastor Keith
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Things continue to change rapidly in this unprecedented time in our world, local community, and church life. Confirmed cases of Covid-19 are increasing exponentially. The virus has now mutated, complicating the already difficult process of producing a vaccine. Business and schools are closing, graduations and celebrations are cancelled or postponed. Our nation has been asked to not meet in groups over 10 people for the next 8 weeks, maybe longer.
TFC - along with so many other churches - are making rapid adjustments to how we stay connected, meet together “to encourage one another to love and good deeds,” and not just survive - but grow as disciples in our love of Christ, care for each other, and serve our neighbors and communities. Thanks to all for your flexibility and encouragement so far.
The ultimate aim of our decisions is love. How can we best love one another and our neighbors, and do everything as much as it depends on us to seek the “shalom” of Christ in our community? I want to update you on what we have decided so far, and how we will continue to grow and provide ways to move together into the remarkable love of Jesus Christ - albeit more virtually in this temporary season.
Many of you checked in at our Facebook Page (@TrinityFellowship) last Sunday morning for our first ever “livestream” service and were encouraged by the conversation and encouragement from God's Word.
We are planning to provide a “livestream” service every Sunday morning at 9:30 am through the 8 weeks proposed by the federal guidelines. Invite family and friends to join us. Start a "Watch Party" (click Share, then Watch Party) to invite your Facebook friends to join us in worship. Meet together as a family, or even a small group to be encouraged by God’s Word together with familiar faces and the familiar backdrop of our sanctuary.
Connection Groups & Bible Studies: We are encouraging small groups (home groups, weekly bible studies, etc.) to meet regularly, but move to virtual settings. The staff is committed to coach our small group leaders with resources for effective gatherings in a context that will stress our desire and need to connect physically. The church has a Zoom meeting account for groups to use. We also encourage you to consider other services supporting visual interaction and participation like WhatsApp, FaceTime (for apple devices), and Skype.
DAILY / FREQUENTLY THROUGHOUT THE WEEK
We are planning to invite families and children to connect via Facebook Live for story times with Kari Jane, hangouts with youth, as well as video and blog devotionals.
We encourage everyone in the body to consider calling, texting, or video chatting with others in your small group or the larger church body even more diligently and frequently during this time.
Wednesday mornings at 7:00 am, Mike Trabun and myself are hosting a weekly service of prayer and scripture readings guided by the Anglican Book of Common Prayer via Zoom.
• We have a webpage dedicated to Covid-19-related updates including decisions about gathering, meeting times, and service opportunities with our local ministry partners and within our community. Click HERE.
• Consider these ideas for how to pray and care for others.
• Offer to pick up and deliver groceries for anyone in your small group or neighborhood who may be homebound or more vulnerable.
• We will also be communicating through Facebook (@TrinityFellowship) Instagram (TFCRichardson).
• If you are not on the church email list, please email the church office (email@example.com).
• If you have a special need, want prayer, would like to request a pastoral visit, or update us on your health, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We commit to keep everyone up to date as we learn more, need to adjust our plans, or continue to develop our virtual interactions as we Move Together Into the Remarkable Love of Jesus Christ.