Dear Indiana United Methodists,

We are walking by faith and praying through this current crisis that has impacted our normal rhythm of worship and life. We have all been asked to do our part in curbing the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). During this pandemic, the Church is still needed, though in-person worship has been suspended until further notice.

Unusual circumstances require us to adapt so that the Church can continue to be an instrument of God’s grace. A number of pastors have raised concerns about the sharing of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This communication is to provide helpful guidelines.

Holy Communion
Because of the limitations the pandemic is imposing, pastors to have asked for permission to allow people to participate in communion from home as you lead online worship. Pastors are now allowed to provide online Communion service as a way of extending sacrament as a means of grace. You are not required to, and some pastors have chosen to postpone communion until gathered worship is allowed. Within our Wesleyan heritage, we must remember the place of Elders, Deacons, and Local Pastors licensed for sacramental ministry. It is the position of Bishop Trimble that this privilege is for a season, and there will be a return to traditional practices in accordance with our liturgy as soon as possible.

Specific Guidelines for the Practice for Online Communion:

Instructions for Leading Online Communion
“We believe the Sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian’s profession and of God’s love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, quickening, strengthening and confirming our faith in him.”

“We believe the Lord’s Supper is a representation of our redemption, a memorial of the sufferings and death of Christ, and a token of love and union which Christians have with Christ and with one another. Those who rightly, worthily and in faith eat the broken bread and drink the blessed cup partake of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner until he comes.” The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, Paragraph 104: Article VI – The Sacraments, pages 73-74.

With this in mind, people of your congregation and online community may participate in Holy Communion from their homes as you lead online worship.

Scriptural Setting
Holy Communion is celebrated in the context of worship. When you worship online, you are part of the context. When a Scriptural context has not been presented, read one of the following Scriptures, (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29), along with the following directives:

  1. Pastors are encouraged to lead the liturgy. You, as the pastor, should take the lead. Online Holy Communion is still a community act of worship best led by clergy.
  2. Use the Communion Liturgy of Service of Word and Table found in The United Methodist Hymnal or the United Methodist Book of Worship.
  3. The Confession and Pardon, as well as the consecration of the bread and the cup provides the opportunity for the whole community to participate in the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please be sure to consecrate the elements prior to using.
  4. Grape juice is preferable. (Encourage online participants to have enough available for those worshipping in their location). If they do not have grape juice, use your best judgment in recommending a suitable “fruit of the vine” replacement. The main point is to participate in the body and blood of Christ.
  5. Bread or crackers should be used. (Have enough available for those worshipping in your location).
  6. As with each pastor and local church, there are numerous expressions of presenting and receiving the bread and the cup, Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Individual cups are encouraged but intinction may be practiced in individual home settings.
  7. Be sure to close the Communion Service with prayer. If the Lord’s Prayer has not already been incorporated in the service, it can be used as a close to the communion time.
  8. Share your experience(s) of encountering the presence of Christ during this sacrament. Sharing your experience helps all of us learn, grow and find new ways of being in relationship as the body of Christ.
  9. Additional resources can be found at the General Board of Discipleship link below.

The Holy Bible
The United Methodist Hymnal
Bishop Frank J. Beard, Illinois Great Rivers
Bishop Tracey Smith-Malone, East Ohio
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, West Ohio