Bishop's Writing / Enews March 2022
As you are aware, our Covid Advisory Task Force has advised a relaxing of the requirements related to masks and social distancing for Sunday worship. This has inspired questions about the common cup. How soon can we return to the common cup?
The short answer is "soon." But before we get that advice from the Task Force, I want to say something about our communion tradition and habits.
The sharing of the body and blood of Christ, one body, one blood, is a sign of our identity as Episcopalians. It signifies that we are a redeemed community in Christ. We are forgiven. We are one. The one loaf and the one cup points to our unity. That's very important.
But the symbol has always yielded to the needs of the church. Wine has not always been available to the church. And some people are not able to drink wine. Therefore the church has said that communion in one kind, that is, only bread or only wine, is sufficient. The grace of God is undivided. As we look forward to the return to the common cup, I encourage discretion. Those of us with colds should refrain. Those of us worried about our immune systems should refrain. Bread alone is sufficient. Those who choose this option are full members of our Eucharistic community.
There are many parishes that practice intinction, that is, the individual dipping of the wafer in the cup. This is actually a step away from the common cup, a bit of American individualism, and a false sense of control. It is a common practice among children. However, fingers are dirtier than mouths, and one set of fingers in the wine spoils the cup. I want to discourage intinction as a practice, especially for children. Better not to drink the wine. If you must intinct, please leave the wafer in your hand for the chalice assistant to intinct and place on your tongue. Chalice assistants should rehearse intinction and make sure to sanitize their hands before communion. Clergy should undertake appropriate education.
As we prepare for our return to a new normal, let us revise our practices in keeping with our new reality. Care for one another's health will be a continuing necessity. Care with the common cup is one way to safely return to our tradition.