The Communion and Communicant

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No one may be excommunicated that is refused the sacrament of Holy Communion without reference to the Diocesan Bishop. See Canon B Area Bishops will authorise lay people to assist in the administration of Holy Communion under the following conditions:. N …, in this ministry, you must be examples of Christian living in faith and conduct; you must strive to grow in holiness through this sacrament of unity and love. Remember that, though many, we are one body because we share the one bread and the one cup.

Priest: Are you resolved to undertake faithfully the office of administration of Holy Communion to your brothers and sisters, and to serve to build up the Church? Assistant being commissioned: I am. Priest: Are you resolved to administer the Holy Communion with the utmost care and reverence? Gracious Lord, you nourish us with the Body and Blood of your Son,that we might have eternal life.

May the holy mysteries they distribute Lead them to the joys of eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. The written permission of the Area Bishop is required to reserve the Sacrament. The Bishop must also give his written approval for the construction of the safe and its proposed position in church, for which a faculty is also required. The application for a faculty should be made in the usual way. The Sacrament should be reserved in a ciborium or other suitable vessel, and should be changed frequently. The Parish Priest is responsible for the security of the Sacrament, and should have the key to the place of reservation in his or her safekeeping.

It is customary to mark the place of reservation with a white light. Before any expected vacancy the Parish Priest should consult the Area Bishop, who will make the necessary arrangements for the care of the Sacrament. If a priest is unavailable to conduct a service of Holy Communion, it is possible for an authorised person to conduct a service, with appropriate permission. We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our website. You can find out more about which cookies we are using or switch them off in settings. Read our policy on cookies and privacy.

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This website uses Google Analytics to collect anonymous information such as the number of visitors to the site, and the most popular pages. More information about our Cookie Policy. Share this page. Share an article by email. The agreement of the Area Bishop is required before a parish introduces the practice of admitting baptized persons to communion before confirmation. It is often helpful for the Bishop to admit children to communion at a service of confirmation, where the two practices can be linked.

The Ministry of the Word may be in separate groups e. Sunday School , but the Ministry of the Sacrament should be for the whole church together. It is impossible to force the policy of one parish on to another, and therefore there may be difficulties when families move from one parish to another. However, unconfirmed communicant people who move to another parish will be commended to their new incumbent as communicant members of the church. Since the bishop is the principal minister of initiation, it is important for the bishop regularly to be the minister of Holy Baptism, and particularly at services where candidates will be both baptized and confirmed.

Excommunication No one may be excommunicated that is refused the sacrament of Holy Communion without reference to the Diocesan Bishop. Commissioning lay assistants to administer communion Lay Assistants at Holy Communion Area Bishops will authorise lay people to assist in the administration of Holy Communion under the following conditions: Proposed Lay Assistants should be communicants in good standing, nominated by the Incumbent and approved by the PCC.

The church as a whole, however, has rejected the idea that Communion can only be offered in small groups. Some denominations have sought to simulate a small group environment by having people take Communion sitting in the pews and passing the bread and wine from one to another, by bringing people to the Communion rail in small groups then formally dismissing those groups, or by the use of a common cup rather than through the use of individual portions of the wine or grape juice.

Through the s in the United States the common practice in The Methodist Church was to invite Communicant s to the Communion rail in groups, administer the Sacrament, then provide a "dismissal" prayer. Although some United Methodist churches still follow that practice, most now follow a more individualized procedure. That community in Communion in a church can fail in a rather radical manner is typified by a private communication from a person who has used holycommunionontheweb.

Recently I heard about your website and was very intrigued The Methodists are supposed to be an inclusive denomination, but I can't get a ride to any church and no clergy will bring me communion and pray with me. When I've been able to go to church, I have to sit alone and no one ever [sic] reads the bulletin. So I was really excited to find out about this site Thank you for your efforts. An important point made by John Wesley was that in the Eucharist God operates independently and objectively in the Communicant. Wesley commented at one point that if God did not operate objectively in the sacrament then Christ "would surely have warned us; he would have revealed it long ago.

When working with the web we often use the term "virtual" to refer to some non-corporeal activity. Holy Communion on the web is not a "virtual Communion," however, because the "communion" in all cases takes place between the Communicant and God.

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What is "virtual" in a web-based Communion service is the liturgical guide through which the ritual of Holy Communion is delivered. The Communicant will be real and corporeal as will be the bread and the wine the elements used in the service. And the presence of God will always be real for the Communicant. The communal side of Communion offered via the web can also be thought of as involving the collective number of people who may be guided through the Communion liturgy in a church or on the web, who have done so in the past, or who will do so in the future.

This is similar to, if not identical with, the Communion of Saints. If taken into account liturgically, this point can be presented during a web-based Communion service so that it is real and important to the Communicant. This interpretation is reasonably consistent with the views of such early Methodists as Lady D'Arcy Maxwell, a person who gave considerable thought to the need for and implications of frequent Communion.

For her it formed a bond of union among God's faithful followers and the most intimate participation of God in the life of the believer. The Sacrament became, if not the primary means of grace, certainly one of the most important. It was a practical avowal of the Christian's attachment to Christ as well as a renewal of the covenant between God and his church. Wesley's "evangelical" concerns led him from a rather doctrinaire High Church or juridical position to a modified High Church position with a resulting vagueness concerning the positive nature of the church.

Wesley incorporated all three views of the church into his thinking, notwithstanding the problem that an understanding of the church as a community of believers and as the mystical body of Christ may conflict with an understanding of the church as a juridical body. For our purposes here, however, it is Wesley's belief in the church as the mystical body of Christ that is most relevant. The church conceived as a "community of believers" propounds a kind of religious individualism, while the concept of the "mystical body of Christ" promotes the communal and corporate but not the juridical character of the church.

However, the communalism of the mystical body of Christ is not only a communalism of physical proximity, it is also a communalism of the spirit. Edgar Thompson points out that at various times Wesley defined the church "not by the form of its government, but by the faith and life of its members.

The corporatism of the "mystical body of Christ" is a concept of spiritual relationships rather than a corporatism demanded by legal rights and obligations. For the doctrines of the church as a community of believers or as the mystical body of Christ, church organization and social structure are unimportant. Most Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, hold to both concepts, but the Catholic tradition both Roman and non-Roman extends beyond these to the church as a juridical body while much of Protestantism stops with them.

One additional point needs to be mentioned. Remember that in the Wesleyan context there is a rather clear individual element because through the sacrament, the Communicant connects with God apart from, or in addition to, the larger community. We must recognize that it is difficult to satisfy the communal aspect of Holy Communion on the Web. The key here is that it is "difficult," but not impossible. Even before Holy Communion is a communal act, it is a means God has chosen to make his grace known to people.

That grace is available to us independently and Holy Communion is a rite that helps us center and focus on the acceptance of God's grace. Holy Communion on the Web should be viewed as a supplement to Holy Communion in a church, not as a substitute for more institutional forms. If, however, the communal aspect of Holy Communion on the Web is a problem for an individual, Communion sites on the web can be used with others rather than alone. At least one person who has used the website reported in an email that The communion experience was better than I had anticipated.

Three of us used it as part of our weekend [re]treat and Sunday worship together. We were able to experience communion with community Thank you for your efforts to bring worship and communion in new ways. When all is said and done, however, is it our place to deny an important means of grace to those separated from the institutional church by a requirement that an "authentic" communion can take place only in a church?

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The short answer to this question is , "Yes, we can! The underlying reason is that the institutional church is failing to reach substantial numbers of people. Consequently, the institutional church is denying the church's most important means of finding God's grace to a significant number of people. To understand how this is so we must first consider two additional questions:.

To answer these questions we need to have recourse to historical precedence and contemporary practice. Who has the authority to Administer Holy Communion and to Consecrate the elements? In the 21 st Century the question of who has the authority to say the words of consecration varies by denomination and ranges from individuals ordained in some "Apostolic Succession" 19 to lay persons. Apostolic succession is a doctrine, held by some Christian denominations, asserts that properly ordained bishops are the only legitimate successors of the Twelve Apostles, from the first century to the present day.

According to this doctrine, bishops have inherited the spiritual, ecclesiastical and sacramental authority, power, and responsibility that were conferred upon them by the Apostles, who in turn received their spiritual authority from Jesus Christ. Protestants other than Anglicans and some Methodists in a loose Anglican tradition consider the authority given to the apostles as unique, proper to the Apostles alone. They reject any doctrine of a succession of their power. As the church became increasingly institutionalized, perhaps as early as the 2nd Century of the Christian era, it insisted that it was the sole mediator between individual Christians and God, including the due administration of Holy Communion.

By "due administration" is meant not only the entire Communion liturgy, but also the specific part of the liturgy when the elements the bread and wine are consecrated. The result of the move to an understanding of the Church as mediator was the view that only priests, ordained by a bishop in the "apostolic succession," could administer Holy Communion.

That is only priests could provide a "valid" consecration of the elements of bread and wine. By insisting on the role of the Church as mediator the institutional church also found an important control tool that became a means for including those in agreement and excluding those who did not agree. The interpretation of the institutional church as a mediator between individual Christians and God represented a distinct shift from New Testament times. In the 1 st Century church there was no "priesthood," so, as is documented in some of the letters of Paul, Communion was administered by ordinary Christians, both male and female.

It was this corruption of the sacrament that Paul was concerned about when he wrote the church at Corinth saying, "When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. The effort to achieve greater control over the fledgling Christian movement by the end of the 1 st Century was met by at least some resistance from established congregations, however.

The Reformation of the 16 th Century further confused the issue since John Calvin was never a priest he was a lawyer and Martin Luther was excommunicated i.

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In other words, the formal Apostolic Succession appeared to be broken by both Calvin and Luther. Denominations in the Calvinist tradition generally adhere to the "Protestant" perspective regarding Apostolic Succession described above while many Lutheran bodies retain the doctrine. Today, however, denominations in neither the Calvinistic nor the Lutheran traditions recognize, for the most part, the right of persons other than clergy i. The Church of England, perhaps with better historical continuity than other Reformation churches, continued to regard itself as the heir of the "Catholic" tradition even though it was separated from Rome.

By the 18 th Century John Wesley saw an acute need for modifying the rigid control mechanisms regarding who can validly administer the Sacrament. Wesley took it upon himself to ordain Methodist preachers and he tended to look the other way even when his lay preachers provided Holy Communion in Methodist meeting houses.


By this assertion Wesley laid the foundation for significant doubt about who can be a legitimate Celebrant of i. Wesley came to believe that in the Eucharist God operates independently and objectively in the Communicant essentially Wesley's understanding of the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Sacrament. It is not that the words spoken in the Communion service are some magic incantation by an "authorized" person, but that the ritual is one of the primary means instituted to guide people so that individuals will open themselves as recipients of God's Grace.

Other factors that contributed to Wesley's perspective were the increasing diversity of religious backgrounds or lack thereof among Methodists and the increasing tendency for Anglican clergy to prohibit Methodists from taking Communion in their churches. Thomas Taylor, one of Wesley's lay preachers, made the point that people seeking God through the Sacrament should not be denied Communion simply because a church or an "authorized" person is unavailable.

Taylor indicated that while he believed it lawful for one who was not ordained to give the Sacrament, he "did not think it expedient, to celebrate the Lord's Supper without some formality of that kind. In the United States a situation similar to Taylor's arose in the Methodist Episcopal Church in the early part of the 19 th Century when Francis Asbury Wesley's American successor successfully stopped the attempt to authorize lay persons to administer the Eucharist. As James F. White has noted, the action by Asbury "seems to have been more a matter of church discipline than to defend a traditional approach to the sacrament.

Notwithstanding the somewhat spotty historical record regarding the need for ordination for a person to provide Holy Communion, even among Protestants some form of ordination became a requirement. The ordination requirement, authorized by some institutional church, seems to be a felt need to maintain hierarchical power and control, as it is today among Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Methodists and most other denominations.

It also reaffirms the role of the institutional church as a mediator between the individual Communicant and God. Today there are recognized denominations that hark back to the 1 st Century church and do not demand that sacraments be exclusively administered by clergy. New denominations were formed on what was the frontier in America.

Denominations such as the Disciples of Christ and Church of Christ, for example, founded during the 19 th Century, instituted weekly Communion as part of their regular worship and they insisted, then and now, that lay administration of the Sacrament was valid. There are also non-ordination alternatives coming into play as people come to view the institutional church as not responding to the spiritual needs of an increasing number of individuals. For example, in Belgium, some Roman Catholic lay persons have started their own parishes. The independent Catholic parishes are, according to New York Times reporter Doreen Carvajal, "an uneasy reaction to a combination of forces: a shortage of priests, the closing of churches, dissatisfaction with Vatican appointments of conservative bishops and, most recently, dismay over cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests.

So, who has the authority to administer Holy Communion and to consecrate the elements of bread and wine? Taking our lesson from the early church, from present day denominations that insist lay persons have the right and obligation to administer Holy Communion, and from contemporary dissenters from the institutional church that are experimenting with lay administration, it would appear that there is no serious theological or historical reason to assume that an ordained person is a requirement for administering Holy Communion.

Can we make Holy Communion available to an expanded number of people through 21 st Century technologies? On the web, by involving the Communicant in the liturgy, especially with the consecration of the elements, we can go beyond a merely recorded or synthesized method of administering the Sacrament to one more consistent with the 1st Century church and with alternative approaches coming out of the institutional church.

One of the issues confronting the provision of Holy Communion on the web is that a web-based Communion service requires that most or all the service be prerecorded. A prerecorded consecration would seem, on the surface, to be almost absurd since the Celebrant would seem to be a computer rather than a denominationally authorized person. One possible way to mitigate the "absurdity" of the situation, however, may be to have the Communicant participate in the administration of Communion, including the consecration.

This would certainly appear to be following the practices of the early church as well as the practices of at least some contemporary Christians. It can be argued, following the practices of the 1 st Century church, that it is possible for persons seeking spiritual insight through Holy Communion can participate in a self-administered or lay-administered Communion service.

It can also be argued that allowing direct lay participation in the administration of the Eucharist is a contemporary response to John Wesley's dictum that Christians should participate in the Sacrament as frequently as possible.

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There are various ways in which lay participation might be accomplished over the web. One way would be to have the Communicant repeat after the Celebrant the words of institution and consecration. Another way would be to rework the "Prayer of Consecration" so that it is fully interactive with the essential lines being said by the Communicant guided by the Celebrant. A third way might be to simply ask the Communicant to repeat with the Celebrant the entire "Prayer of Consecration. They also bring back to the service of Holy Communion the importance of the sacrament to the early church, if not exactly the procedures followed in the 1 st Century.

By requiring the Communicant to follow closely a theologically and historically appropriate liturgy we maintain a continuity with the manner in which Communion is traditionally administered. By following appropriate liturgical practices, regardless of who, or through what medium the services is administered, reduces the potential for corrupting the Sacrament as sometimes happened in the early church see Paul's comments in 1 st and 2 nd Corinthians. Such a service may not be able to be presented in every denominational context, but it can certainly be presented in a Christian framework.

The recounting of the early Methodist controversies, along with the wide variety of ways contemporary Christian denominations seek sacramental authority, should strongly suggest that there is no one "right" way that exists and that perhaps every Christian has the authority to administer Holy Communion. Proposals to provide Communion over the web simply extend the discussion that has been going on for centuries.

In the United States during the first decade of the 21 st Century there has been a move to tighten United Methodist practice regarding Communion. In answer to the original question of this section, "Can we provide Holy Communion over the web? With the technology available today, perhaps the time has come for ordinary Christians to reclaim their own authority to access directly the good news of God's love without the intervention of a moribund hierarchy.

There are other issues related to the offering of Communion over the web. A web-based Communion service is unlikely to work for members of denominations that have a highly juridical understanding of the nature of the Church, for example. Nor will it be likely to work for those believing that Baptism is a prior requirement to taking Communion or for those in traditions that do not observe an "open" Communion. It is also necessary to provide some guidance in spiritual and liturgical preparation. The need for more widely available Communion is present, however. With some minimal agreement on the two issues of the communal aspects of Communion and the legitimacy of consecration it is my belief that we can appropriately use the power of the web for providing Holy Communion to the institutionally separated folks among us.

What should a service of Holy Communion on the web encompass? What should it look like? I contend that the church has the obligation to make the most important of Christian worship experiences available to as many as possible as part of the way in which we reach out to those not in a regular and constant relationship through the church itself and as a way of bringing those people into fellowship with the church.

It is time to make creative use of the means of communication now available to provide authentic worship experiences and especially Holy Communion for the maximum number of people possible. The problem of how to deliver Holy Communion to people who are not part of, or only peripherally related to, the institutional church has resulted in controversy within Christendom for centuries. Thomas C. Andrew C. Thompson, "Facebook friendships: a means of grace? See Gregory S. Neal, "F. Both versions reserve the "authority" to make changes to some form of institutional church although neither establishes a procedure for making such changes.

Please check it from time-to-time to see if this issue has been resolved. John C. The reference in Bowmer is to Wesley in Even that early, however, Wesley was stipulating only baptism not confirmation be required for taking Communion although the Church of England at that time also required confirmation prior to first taking Communion. Baptism was not a requirement for membership in the Methodist Societies. Early on, since the Societies were thought to be part of the Church of England, baptism was assumed.

Later, however, when dissenters and undocumented people started joining the assumption of baptism could not be maintained. The only requirement for membership was a willingness to seek Christ as savior and to repent of one's sins. Ole E.

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Neal, Question 9, makes a similar argument. Personal email to author from Linda Brown, November 13, , following the publication of an interview with author entitled, "Click in Remembrance of Me," Newsweek , November 4, For a little more on this, see Thomas Wm.

Madron, pp. Kershaw, , p. See Edgar W. The Epworth Press, , p. Thompson, op. Todd, op. For more detailed documentation on this point, see Madron, pp. Personal email to author from anonymous, November 9, Essential to maintaining the doctrine is the proper consecration of bishops. The Protestant view of ecclesiastical authority differs accordingly. See "Apostolic succession. Web: 20 Feb Web: 30 Aug and J. As is evident in subsequent citations to 1 Corinthians, the communion or sharing is between the communicant and God manifested in Jesus Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit.