Dear people of God at All Saints Church:
This past week saw the three-year anniversary of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and all that it entailed for virtually every aspect of our lives. For three years this parish church and others like it have endeavored valiantly to ensure that all of God’s people had a way to worship God in as safe a method as possible. Although I was not with you until quite late into these three years, I can assure you that your protocol around the pandemic has been exemplary. Through the use of both pouring chalices and cruets, you have ensured that everybody who comes to this church to worship God have been able to receive the Holy Eucharist in both ‘kinds,’ that is in the consecrated Bread and the consecrated Wine. When many parishes withdrew access to the consecrated Wine, you all ensured that the rubrics of The Book of Common Prayer were maintained and that the historic Anglican teachings around Communion in both kinds being available were followed.
Three years later, we are not in the same place relative to COVID-19 as we were when restrictions were put into place. Thanks to the diligent work of scientists and the brave ministry of health care professionals, we have an effective vaccine against COVID-19. While the vaccine does not entirely prevent the virus, it does a remarkable job in most cases of providing protection against and limiting the severity of COVID-19. Given that the landscape looks differently now than it did even a year ago, it is time for our pandemic restrictions to also begin shifting.
Almost a year ago—on March 29, 2022—our Bishop strongly encouraged all parishes and missions of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota to “return to the fullness of our church’s sacramental life and practice without restrictions [including] reintroducing the common cup at Eucharist, which is an important part of our theology and practice.” He also re-emphasized the Church’s long-held teaching that the full sacramental grace of the Eucharist is received in one or both kinds, again, in either or both the consecrated Bread and consecrated Wine.
Infectious disease experts have regularly affirmed—before and after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—that “no documented transmission of any infectious disease has ever been traced to the use of the common communion cup” (Manangan, et al, American Journal of Infection Control). Others have pointed out that priests have consumed what remains at the bottom of the shared cup for centuries without any higher rate of viral or bacterial infection (Spantideas, et al, Public Health).
With all of this in mind, our parish vestry has discerned that the common Eucharistic cup will be returned as an option on Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023. Communion will still be available by means of a pouring chalice or cruet for the time being. The ancient teaching of the Church is also still true: Communion is fully received even if you do not receive the consecrated Wine. Although the eventual goal is, as the Bishop encouraged us, a complete return to our pre-pandemic Eucharistic practice, the vestry and I also want to be pastorally sensitive to those who are not yet ready to return to receiving via the common cup. The traumas of the past three years are very real and cannot be easily dismissed.
We are committed as a parish community to walking together in love and supporting one another in the midst of our diversity of thought, opinion, and practice. If you would like to discuss this expansion in our parish’s Eucharistic practice, please do reach out to me. I’d be happy to talk and pray with you!