Calmly sipping

Tuesday 30 June 2009 11:32 AM

Here's my latest "pastoral analysis" of the options for receiving Communion in the quarantine age. Drafted with my current ministry in mind - a traditional Anglican parish ...

Drinking from the common cup
• Natural expression of Jesus’ command “Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor 11:25; cf. Mk 14:23)
• Expresses our oneness
• Historic, consistent with tradition
• Still by far the norm among Anglicans
• Risk at some level of transmitting infection
• Unwise for those with a cold
• Causes anxiety for some, who may choose not to receive the wine at all

Most likely the risk of transmission is very low, and no greater than many daily activities like shaking hands, sharing a cuppa and biscuit, or eating from a buffet. There’s no practical evidence that this tradition produces higher levels of sickness, but it would be nearly impossible to prove either way. Generally regarded as very safe provided the cup is wiped thoroughly.

Dipping in a separate cup
• Expresses oneness, to some extent
• Can be safer if some have a cold
• Reduces anxiety
• Looks safer to visitors or anyone wary of the common cup
• Becoming more common
• Not a natural expression of Jesus’ command to eat and then drink
• Compromises sense of oneness
• Depends on no one’s finger touching wine or inside of cup
• Not historic in public worship

Most would regard this as very safe, provided no fingers contact the liquid or inside cup. If that does happen the risk of infection becomes much higher - probably higher than drinking from the common cup. Using a wide chalice with a very low depth of wine minimises the risk, but it would be virtually impossible to prevent entirely.

Drinking from individual glasses
• preserves a natural sense of drinking
• those with colds can freely share
• established norm in some (non-Anglican) churches
• growing Anglican use in recent years
• very little for anyone to be anxious about!
• may reduce sense of oneness substantially
• not historically Anglican
• some complexity in administering

The most radical solution from a history and tradition point of view, but also the best guarantee for reducing the risk of infection and the related concerns. Although there’s little sense of sharing the cup, there’s more sense of eating and drinking than is the case with dipping.

Personally? I'm still a common cup person. Failing that I'd be happier with individual cups than with dipping.