Dear siblings in Christ,
Before the pandemic, many of you will remember that our normal practice for Holy Eucharist was to offer communicants the option to sip the wine from the chalice, and we’ve decided that it is time to re-institute the practice.
Part of our consideration in this decision is our upcoming reception into the Episcopal Church as a Mission of the local diocese. Our Bishop (Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows) desires that churches in her diocese offer the “common cup” to those participating in Holy Eucharist.
What this means from a practical perspective is that, starting on the First Sunday of Advent (Dec 3), communicants may sip wine from the chalice if they desire. (The minister will wipe and turn the chalice after every sip.)
Of course, the pandemic changed a lot about our perception of the health risks of being together and breathing the same air, much less sharing drinking vessels! So I understand that, while some will be rejoicing at this change, others will feel concerned.
So I want to speak two “words of peace” for our church. First, after reading quite a bit about this, it seems to me that the health risks of drinking from the same chalice aren’t any greater than dipping bread into the same cup, or shaking hands during the passing of the peace. To quote one study’s conclusions: “While the cup may serve as a vehicle for transmitting infection, the risk of infection transmission is very small.”
Here are a few articles to read on this if you want to examine this further:
- Germs, Viruses, and the Common Cup: Is Intinction Safer?
- Is there any health risk in drinking from the Common Cup at Holy Communion?
- The Common Cup and SARS-CoV-2 Infection Risk
- Individual Communion Cups, Community, and Covid-19 (a theological reflection on the importance of offering the common cup)
The second “word of peace” I want to offer to our church is that there is no pressure at all to drink from the chalice, or to receive the wine at all. This is called “receiving in one kind” (consuming the Bread only), which is still considered “full” communion. Bishop Jennifer urges us to “create a judgment-free space to accommodate varied practice for those who may desire to receive in one kind for a while longer.”
What this means in practical terms is that, starting on the First Sunday of Advent, when receiving Holy Eucharist, according to your comfort and conscience,
- You may sip wine from the chalice,
- You may dip the bread in the wine (a practice called “intinction,” although Bishop Jennifer discourages this), or
- You may skip the wine entirely (communion in “one kind” – which is still considered “full” communion).
The amount of energy and thought that goes into this kind of thing might seem a little strange to you, but as Christians in a sacramental tradition, these are matters of great significance. As Bishop Jennifer says, “The depth of our longing to receive communion in both kinds speaks to our desire to be one with Christ and one another in the Eucharistic feast… I rejoice that we will be able to offer and participate in the sacrament that, along with baptism, most makes us who we are: the Body of Christ.”
If you have any questions or concerns about this, please reach out to me, or Fr. Spencer or Fr. Matt. We’d be happy to process this further with you.
Grace and peace,