Can ministers bless the Lord’s Table over Zoom? The worldwide pandemic provides all-new context for this theologically untested—and for some unthinkable—question. It may be time to consider what we mean by “presence.”
National guidelines now limit gatherings to 10 people. Churches have transitioned to online services and Zoom meetings. The sermon livestream is no problem—we’re comfortable with the Word transferring digitally. A recent study from the Pew Research Center easily pulled together 50,000 online sermons from Pentecostal to Catholic. Eighty-three percent of American protestant pastors agree that viewing a livestream is an acceptable option for the sick.
The controversy is with the latter half of Word and Table. “This is my body”—Christ’s words make our faith explicitly physical. But COVID-19 has transformed our physical bodies and gatherings from blessed unity to social-distanced partitioning. Hugs and hands convey fear instead of love. The bread and the cup elicit worry of viral transmission.
With physical gatherings canceled, congregations with quarterly Communion may slide the schedule a bit. But many evangelical Lutherans, Anglicans, and Presbyterians celebrate with bread and wine weekly. The shared Table is ordered and integral to worship. What now? Do you have to be present to partake of the presence?
Some “low church” nondenominational churches like Saddleback have long offered instructions to follow along with your own grape juice and livestream. Never mind 1990s HTML wonders like eHolyCom. While the United Methodist Church wrote exploratory papers in 2013, most sacramental denominations have relegated online Holy Communion to an exotic ...1
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