Thoughts about Holy Communion in the Midst of Coronavirus

Dear Pastors and Congregants,

I have been asked to address the issue of cyber Holy Communion. In the document “This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion,” found in our 2016 Book of Resolutions it states the following: ” This Holy Mystery is characterized by the effort to avoid rigidity on the one hand and indifference on the other. Neither extreme is true to our heritage nor faithful to the Spirit who leads the church forward in the work of making disciples living toward the new creation. (p. 728) There is no place in this documents that speaks about the consecration of communion elements through cyberspace.

At a meeting of a group of United Methodist Bishops, (September 30- October 1, 2013) there was a call for a moratorium on all online sacramental practices. There were concerns about our ecumenical partners, that this could be a stumbling block for some of our full-communion agreements. No formal, official statement has been issued about this this practice lately. Now we are in an unusual time in the life of the world in which people are seeking connection with and through the Lord’s Supper and are not able to gather in person.

It would be my wisdom that we consider practicing the Wesley Love Feast in lieu of Holy Communion. Two services are attached here: one for this time of sheltering in place (A Love Feast for Sheltering in Place) and a more formal liturgy (Love Feast ).  However, if the pastor feels a strong movement of the Spirit that Holy Communion should be offered through online means, I leave that to their discretion and discernment. Our goal is to always offer the love and grace of Jesus Christ; but this decision must be made prayerfully and online Communion should be discontinued when we can gather again.

May God continue to use you to minister to the world in healing ways. I hold you in my prayers constantly and the cabinet and I stand ready to assist as needed.

Sincerely, Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

Excerpted from Bishop Johnson’s March 24, 2020, letter: Reminders about Gathering Restrictions and Thoughts about Holy Communion.