As the stay-at-home orders extend around the U.S. as a result of COVID-19 quarantines, and Christ-following churches adapt how Services of Worship are conducted, among the adjustments to be made are rites commanded by Scripture, notably, baptism and The Lord's Supper.
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:
A Pastor Prepares
Before COVID stay-at-home restrictions, churches were planning celebrations and reflections on Holy Week that may have included musical pageants, concerts or other artistic events, likely that would have included a hunt for palm branches. Whether performing or not, it's likely the Holy Week benchmarks -- Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection (Easter) Sunday -- would include The Lord's Supper.
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?"
Here are some ideas based upon a study by Darryl Jenkins, pastor of Faith Community Church in Itasca, IL, plus our Kingdom Impact Theater Ministries experience serving and planning in-church communion services. Pastor Jenkins recently presented his instructions in a Zoom webinar about Communion for his congregation. In addition to the content of the study, the 90-minute session is worth viewing as an example of how to conduct interactive worship and teaching online.
The following are steps of preparation for Sunday and beyond.
1. Inform the Congregation Before Sunday
A benefit of not meeting in the building is the opportunity to enlist volunteers across your demographics. Recruiting an on-going communications team is among them. Recruit volunteers to do the following, which can also be training for potential virtual employment later on.
2. Assemble the Elements
Regular church attendees may expect that providing Communion representative wine and bread elements is the duty of the pastor, deacons, designated shepherds, etc. Now, it's the family's responsibility to prepare and serve. Let the family know what needs to be gathered, and at the Communion ("kitchen") table before Palm Sunday, and BEFORE the service begins, just as you would have the elements pre-set in the building.
3. Establish the Atmosphere
Pastor Jenkins asserts that the most essential part of The Lord's Supper is establishing an atmosphere of reverence. This is certainly true in the sanctuary of the building, but more essential when in the home where a sanctuary of reverence must be created.
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...
4. Conducting the Dinner
If you traditionally hold communion as part of Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services, yet, you're not planning to conduct video or online services, use Palm Sunday to teach the families how to hold The Lord's Supper at home by modeling how the dinner is conducted.
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
In his teaching, Pastor Jenkins asked his congregants to look at the word "communion" and to consider its base language roots. Among the language root is "community."
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...any Sunday.
The KIT 'n' Kaboodle Blog
The essays here are culled from our travels, conversations, worship experiences and discoveries.
Many are reprints from our newsletter, The KIT 'n' Kaboodle, or Facebook notes over time.
They're written by our ensemble, Garlan Garner, Michael Edgar Myers or Vikki J. Myers -- solo, or collectively.