A message from your interim general presbyter:
During this season of Lent and Easter, Christians will gather around the world for worship. In those settings and with the COVID-19 virus threatening, best practices are in order. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance released guidance for congregations on preparing for severe infectious disease outbreaks.
After reflecting with Ruling Elder Jeff Ludwig of Providence Forge Church, here are some additional thoughts about communion in our Presbytery of the James churches:
- Communion preparers and servers should wash hands thoroughly before handling bread and juice/wine. Servers may wear gloves or use gel or liquid hand sanitizer or a sanitary wipe immediately before administering communion. (I did this recently with an Episcopal bishop.) "Call in sick" if you don't feel well.
- When preparing the elements, follow these guidelines:
- Pre-cut the communion bread and portion juice/wine into single-serving cups.
- Place each on plates, patens, or trays that will be handled only by the pastor(s) or ruling elders distributing the bread or juice/wine.
- For juice/wine trays, consider leaving spaces between cups so that worshipers do not accidentally touch multiple cups when selecting one.
- Worshipers should come forward for communion; if unable, a pastor or ruling elder should carry the elements to the worshiper using the practices below.
- When serving bread, pastor(s) or ruling elders should place a piece in the outstretched hand of the worshiper, who then steps to the juice/wine tray before consuming the bread.
- When serving juice/wine, pastor(s) or ruling elders should hold the tray of cups without passing it to the worshipers. If possible, place the cup on the table for the worshiper to pick up rather than having them select one from the tray.
- After receiving the elements, worshipers eat the bread, drink the juice/wine, and discard the empty cup into a plastic-lined basket on a table adjacent to the servers. Worshipers then return to their seats.
This is the best way to avoid sharing germs with one another by touching and passing an object like a plate or using intinction where fingers might introduce germs into the juice in a chalice.
If these recommendations are different from your current communion practice, be sure to explain the new procedure to worshipers before communion begins.
For more tips and suggestions, review this article written by Rev. Jeremy Smith, a United Methodist pastor in Seattle, WA, where the first U.S. deaths from the virus occurred.
"This too will pass." We believe that. But, as we navigate this time, we need to be wise while continuing to be warm and welcoming. Join me in prayer for those throughout the world affected by COVID-19. We know that, with God's help and good care taken on our part, all will be well.
In Christ's Service,
Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ