Individual Cups at Holy Communion: Practical Guidance

Nov 25, 2020 by

by Andrew Atherstone, Psephizo:

Andrew Atherstone writes: As part of the Church of England’s Covid Recovery, the practice of Holy Communion remains a pressing concern, especially as the latest lockdown ends and parishes prepare for Christmas. At November’s General Synod, seven written questions to the House of Bishops and the Legal Advisory Commission focused on this topic, though once again there was no time allowed for supplementary questions to equivocal answers.

Jesus commands us to eat and drink in remembrance of him (1 Corinthians 11:23–25), but how can we do so in pandemic conditions? These questions will not dissipate in 2021, even when the Three Tiers are dismantled and a government vaccine programme is rolled out. Many congregation members, especially older or vulnerable members, will never again feel confident to share a common drinking vessel in church, or not for some years to come. So what is the way ahead?

Despite persistent interrogation, the House of Bishops continues to advocate ‘communion in one kind’ as the only option for the foreseeable future – or rather ‘communion in one kind’ for the laity, while the clergy receive both bread and wine. This is unhelpful for two main reasons. First, it destroys the priesthood of all believers by granting to the clergy special sacramental privileges which are denied to the laity. Second, it ignores the command of Jesus that when the Christian family is gathered, all are invited to eat and drink, not just the privileged few. Holy Communion is a gift for all the people of God. None is to be excluded.

Many parishes, of course, are now finding their own solutions to this dilemma by introducing individual cups at Holy Communion, now increasingly widespread. The theological case for individual cups has been repeatedly made in recent months, including articles on this blog by Andrew Goddard, Andrew Atherstone, and Ian Paul. Half a year has been spent in discussing the theological and legal implications, and the time has now come for the House of Bishops to retreat from their earlier position and provide practical guidance on the best and safest way to use individual cups. While we keep waiting for that guidance, this article offers a draft framework which parishes can begin to use immediately.

Before coming to the guidance, let us briefly recap other options which have been suggested.

Read here

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