Wine at Holy Communion

24th April 2021 St Barnabas 0 Comments

As the Church of England undertakes its “Covid Recovery” planning, the question of sharing the wine at Communion is becoming a growing worry and concern for the Clergy and its parishioners. Members of St.Barnabas have asked me, “Why is this restriction on Communion wine in place? Can’t we use individual cups at Holy Communion like the Methodists and Baptists?”.

And this is a question that many people who are missing out on sharing the wine are rightly continuing to ask. The House of Bishops have taken refuge behind a 2011 paper from the Legal Advisory Commission (LAC), which summarily pronounced individual cups to be “contrary to church law”.

We are meant to drink from a “Common Cup”, we are told. Ok, fair enough, but if we cannot because of good reasons, how long is the denial of Communion wine going to last?

We have been told that the common cup is really important, but so is full participation in the Holy Communion service. If we continue to worry and take precautions over Covid 19, when will we return to everyone receiving the bread and the wine? These are all important and legitimate questions.

It’s all very confusing, and this sudden laying down of the law is particularly startling given the way the House of Bishops have bent over backwards to accommodate liturgical flexibility and variety during the pandemic. Their earlier guidance document, COVID-19 Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion, even permits the practice of solo Communion, with only the priest present. Solo Communion is out of step with classic Anglican theology and is expressly forbidden by the Book of Common Prayer rubrics. But in our current disrupted circumstances, the House of Bishops have let it pass, on the basis that sometimes “exceptional actions” are needed “to preserve a greater principle”. 

So at the moment, friends, all the Clergy like myself who in this Diocese have promised obedience to the Bishop of Salisbury are concerned about this present situation. But simply put, I cannot go behind my Bishops back and use individual glasses for us all at St.Barnabas.

So for the moment, I would ask you all to joyfully and thankfully continue to fully take part in our Services of Communion. Yes, at the moment, it is in one kind only, but it is nevertheless still a powerful symbol of remembrance of the new covenant made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice and death on the cross, albeit without one of the symbols.

This pandemic has quite clearly raised some huge issues in the life of our churches, and our leaders are going to need to do some deep theological thinking around this whole area of the Eucharist. I believe the practice of everyone drinking from the same cup is because of Covid 19 going to be challenged in our future worship together. But the bottom line is that it has been more than a year since we have all experienced full participation in Communion, and it should not be another year before we do so again.

In his grip

Geoff