Worship - a full Eucharist

  THE REV. 

  DEBRA BLAIR

  looks at the

  things we've missed

  during lockdown 

 

 

Over the past 15 months the style of church services and ‘live’ acts of worship has been changed due to Covid restrictions. Can you list what you have missed most? I would say (and your list may be different) it's been singing - the full Eucharist shared with all - and active fellowship.

This reflection is about a full Eucharist, shared with all.

In all four Gospels the Eucharist is written about. The three ‘Synoptic’ Gospels tell the story of the institution of the Eucharist: John’s Gospel describes the theology of the Eucharist (see John 6: 22-59 … have a read and compare it to one of the other versions - Luke 22: 14-23, Mark 14: 22-25 or Matthew 26: 26-30.

When Lockdown One began on 23rd March 2020, all church-based worship stopped. Initially people were searching for the best way to worship. Different online approaches began to emerge: via websites, video recordings, Zoom and live streaming. People also accessed a variety of media: television, radio and the telephone, as well as the internet. Partaking of the bread and wine, though, was a challenge, and for some people a real difficulty. It is a key part of Christian worship and something we, of this generation, are used to celebrating at least weekly. Lockdown stopped all of this, for everyone. The family of the church could no longer physically unite and celebrate Communion together.

People began to explore what could be possible using technology. ‘Zoom Eucharist’ began to develop in some churches. Presiding at this type of service created a theological challenge for me. Communion, to me, means uniting with other Christians to share in the sacramental feast. It renews us as Christians and helps us to remember Jesus is in our midst. We are replicating his actions when he was present physically on earth. Jesus often ate and drank with people during his earthly ministry (see Mark 8: 1-10 or Luke 19:1-10), and after his crucifixion and resurrection Jesus became known to his disciples when he broke bread – look at Luke 24: 29-30. At a Eucharist in church, all would partake of the bread and the wine together at the table, all united by the Holy Spirit. Pre-Covid, all would share the one ‘Common Cup’, as well as the bread. The bread and wine are also symbolic in that they remind us of the creation, through the wheat and the grapes, helping to remind us that all life is interconnected.

The challenge for me, and many others, initially, was how do you connect and unite with people via a laptop screen? Even now, there is the challenge of the presiding minister being the sole consumer of the wine. This has made me reflect upon the Eucharist itself.

The people of God are still united – whether remotely or in a church building, masked and socially distanced. We all share in the service: as a corporate body we join together with the Confession, the Gloria (when appropriate), the Affirmation of Faith, the Intercessions, the Liturgy of the Word and Sacrament, the Lord’s Prayer and the Post-Communion Prayers. We are drawn together by the liturgy and united as the family of God. The ‘Zoom Eucharist’ initially felt to me like a solitary event, not representing Jesus and his followers, but we were united on screen by sound and by spirit.  

Although the rules relating to the pandemic have changed, and we can now physically meet and join together in a building to celebrate the Eucharist, the sharing of the chalice – the ‘Common Cup’ – is still risky. The Covid virus is known to be spread by droplets, so many people are wary of returning to this practice. How much this matters depends on the individual – what are your thoughts about it?

When George Herbert, the poet and country parson, was a vicar, the congregation only received Communion on special days. The vicar was often the sole consumer of the bread and the wine. Reflecting upon this, we are united together as God’s people in the Eucharist: the service is one of thanksgiving, hope and renewal. We are clearly united when we join together. We are nourished by the Holy Spirit, whether we consume the elements or not (this reflects the ‘receptionist’ view of the Eucharist, adopted by Archbishop Cranmer).

We are God’s people, the Holy Spirit dwells amongst us. He knows no walls or boundaries: they are created by human thinking and beliefs. It may differ from the tradition we are familiar with, but often we have to adapt and change our behaviours in this life. That is not what matters: as Jesus said in the Gospel of John, ‘All who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life.’

Loving God and believing and following Jesus: these are the things that really count.

 

A prayer about the Holy Eucharist:

Give us this day our daily bread, the bread that is Jesus, we pray.

That nourishes our life and makes us the bread of life for today.

O Lord, what words can a man write, what words can the unworthy say,

To express the gratitude for the nourishment, to feed us on our way.

Amen

 

One day in the future we may all again share the Common Cup, but who knows?

 

Next Month - Fellowship