"Visual" Communion

Like many parishes, we have begun video-recording services and making them available on our Swan Anglicans YouTube channel. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0e6xJ3j6VuIuo48cA8IPWQ.

By recording video rather than audio only it becomes possible to offer a recorded service of Holy Communion. This raises the question of how people sitting at home are able to participate in a Eucharist at which they are not present.

The Anglican Church from the very earliest days of the sixteenth century has been insistent that the Eucharist can only be celebrated in community, never by a priest alone. This is because of the nature of what is being done - bread is broken and shared reminding us that while we are individually broken and isolated we are made whole and healed in communion with Christ and one another. This is why we also insist on a common cup (rather than individual communion glasses). The great Reformer, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, wrote that at least three congregants should be present.

The sacraments are also material, rather than disembodied. The elements of bread and wine remind us that we encounter Christ and are transformed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the ordinary physicality of our lives - not in some remote and inaccessible spiritual dimension. Both of these considerations make Holy Communion an integral part of our lives as a community of Christian men and women.

However the Reformers were also practical, as well as pastoral. In the 1662 Prayer Book priests were reminded that where by reason of illness or isolation a person unable to physically receive the sacraments nevertheless: "doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to (their) soul's health, although (they) do not receive the Sacrament with (their) mouth".

In our current circumstances we experience a similar impediment to physically receiving the sacraments, and so there is a time-honoured Anglican precedent for us to "spiritually eat and drink" the body and blood of Christ in being present to Holy Communion in cyberspace. As we prayerfully participate in parish communion via YouTube, we receive the sacraments as we participate in the physical act of reception that we witness.

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