While the procedures connected with the above may be familiar to you, in the online community, these days pastors will encounter many variables in the process:
- Countless people viewing will encounter Communion for the first time, but many with no prior knowledge except what they have heard.
- Many who know of and have participated in Communion will have different backgrounds regarding terminology, history or distribution of the elements. For example, is there a difference between "Communion," "The Lord's Supper," and "The Eucharist"? Inquisitive viewers want to know.
- Even the most versed, dedicated Christ-follower who partakes in Communion is likely to have concerns about conducting Communion at home.
These three matters are complicated by the fact that, because of the abruptness of transitions of the at-home church as a result of COVID_19, THIS Communion Sunday -- April 5, 2020 -- has crept upon us. And, to spin the communion plates faster, take a moment to realize that THIS Communion Sunday is Palm Sunday denoting the start of Holy Week.
A Pastor Prepares
Given the current circumstances, then, the challenge is:
"How does a pastor or family conduct communion at-home during an online experience taking into account the variables of diverse backgrounds, methods of partaking, intimacy at home, and Palm Sunday?"
The following are steps of preparation for Sunday and beyond.
1. Inform the Congregation Before Sunday
- Use multiple communication channels -- email, text, newsletter, social media, phone calls. video -- to tell the congregation you will be celebrating The Lord's Supper (or your Communion term) this weekend .
- Establish a team to make these reminders, whether it's other staff, small group leaders, a media team, or other volunteers. Such a team may be a good place to engage newer member or recent attendees in your congregation.
- Include a script, or checklist of the information to be included in the communication.
2. Assemble the Elements
- Purchase, or pull out the representative unleavened bread: crackers, toast, wafers, etc.
- Assemble the representative wine: juice, water, wine (be clear about the purpose and restrictions of actual wine).
- Once assembled, place the elements where people at home will sit, or designate who will serve as the online communion leader directs.
3. Establish the Atmosphere
Preparing to take the elements is a teaching moment for Believers and non-believers to understand how order in church and order at home are essential and related. As the pastor at church leads the congregation, the head of the house is the pastor at home.
Remind the viewers to establish an atmosphere of reverence by coming to the table as if coming to the church building. Dress for church, sit with upright posture, anticipating the presence of God. State this in your pre-Sunday communication, and then...
- Reinforce the atmosphere of assembling at the table when you go on-screen on Palm Sunday, at the beginning of service, or as part of the prelude during the countdown.
- If your service is live and interactive, meaning people can be seen on-screen (e.g., on a Zoom video chatroom), make sure the background or other content doesn't distract.
- Have your Bibles or Bible apps open and ready. If you have a preferred Bible translation or Bible app, make certain to mention this to avoid confusion, especially for newcomers.
Having the Bible ready is a teaching moment to let everyone discover, or remember, that this is an ordinance of God.
4. Conducting the Dinner
- Besides having the elements in place, make certain the pertinent Bible passages are noted for the viewers to use later.
- Be sure it's clear what "commune" and "the Lord's Supper" and "The Last Supper" mean.
- Emphasize that even though the Lord's Supper is a memorial, it is also a celebration.
In an upcoming article, we will outline some specifics about how a family may conduct The Lord's Supper without the pastor or streaming devices.
The Conclusion of the Matter
So, imagine this Triumphal Entry on Sunday morning: although millions are isolated from each other because of stay-at-home edicts, and there are no green branches or construction paper to be waved, envision millions more...perhaps, billions...simultaneously breaking bread and uplifting cups in the global, albeit virtual, community of one Lord, one faith, one baptism...and hear collective, "Hosanna! Save us, King Jesus!"
Then uplift your hands for a true Palm Sunday.