This is the third article in a brief series about Holy Communion. Today let’s talk the various methods of distributing Holy Communion. There are more than you think. We will talk about posture and elements.
Posture is an important component at the Table of the Lord. Many people prefer to kneel at the communion rail. It is a way that we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. When it isn’t physically possible to kneel, standing at the rail is fine. In some congregations everyone stands at the rail so there is no distinction, as a sign one body in Christ. In some instances, congregants file past servers—this is usually done for expediency.
When it comes to elements there are a variety that may be used. Each have a distinct symbolism according to the practices of the church and pastor. The body of Christ is represented in wafers, loaf bread, flat bread, and gluten-free options according to needs. Some prefer wafers or flat bread because it represents the unleavened bread that our ancestors used at Passover. Practically speaking it is easier to distribute and fewer crumbs appear in the chalice (or on the floor). Loaf bread may be used but it is challenging to tear off pieces of equal size and to avoid crumbs on the floor.
It is common practice that wine and grape juice are available. Both represent the blood of Christ and respect those who are recovering alcoholics. The manner in which communion is set up varies. Some congregations prefer common cup for intinction (dipping) or sipping from as a visual reminder that we are one in Christ. Some have concern about this, but should take comfort in the work of a microbiologist who conducted on to the few studies on the subject. Her conclusion: "People who sip or dip from the Communion cup don't get sick more often than anyone else. It isn't any riskier than standing in line at the movies." Individual cups can be used. It can be particularly meaningful when a pouring chalice is used. This method reflects “the blood of Christ poured or shed for you”. While meaningful, there is hardly a pastor or communion assistant with steady enough hands to pour small amounts of liquid at the communion rail. Without the use of a pouring chalice, individual cups seem to stress individuality rather than one Body in Christ. In addition, for those concerned about the environment the use of individual cups creates a steady stream of waste as they are not recyclable.
We have covered a lot of territory with broad strokes. If you have questions or comments talk to me. I will be glad to talk about the sacramental life that we share. It is good that our church weekly practices this means of grace proclaiming the good news to all.