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Hallo again to all,

Prepackaged CommunionEarlier this week a photo similar to that on the right appeared in our social media feed—a prepackaged, individual serving of unconsecrated, unfermented wine with one wafer. Upon further research, we discovered this marketed as a 'travel set' but found an earlier mention of these as used in a congregational Sunday worship. This struck a great many of us as 'inherently wrong' but the reason for that conclusion differed wildly between various people.

As much as Eucharistic theology and practice has changed within Anglicanism over the last 500 years—which it has, drastically—the common bread and cup is a relative constant. While we have grown accustomed to the individual shot glasses our Reformed and Presbyterian friends use to take communion together, we have not seen in this any Anglican church* in our travels.

Instead, whether from one chalice, or several poured from a common cruet, we remember Christ's memorial as it was instituted at the Last Supper—in community. Bread or wine, consecrated together, is one body and one blood, whether passed or administered, consecrated facing east or north, and regardless of the presence or number of candles on the altar. When pondering where our discomfort with individually packaged elements lay, we found it firmly at the feet of this corporate act of preparing, memorializing, and asking the Holy Spirit to bless this 'visible sign of invisible grace'†. In these prefabricated cups, there was no need to set a table, no common cup or cruet from which all would later drink. Rather, it moved this radical act of community back into the realm of the individual.

A great deal has been written of the sin or heresy of individualism, dating back even to the turn of the last century. Though this phrase has been used to mean slightly different things by different people, all harken back to the communal nature of the church catholic and the focus of our faith on God, rather than on ourselves. It is often noted that, more so than almost any other time, Sunday mornings bring together different generations, ethnicities, education levels, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Removing the common cup, or a least the common cruet, individualizes the experience of the sacrament, and removes a very deliberate way Jesus brought his disciples, and through the words of institution, us, to table together in the scriptures‡. At its core, this is one of the greatest issues facing the church.

Communion raiWhen the same hands set up, prepared, and are administering any meal, but even more strongly, the body and blood of Christ from the same chalice as one bread and one body, it becomes much harder to view those around you as something other than who you are. It is harder to look past the God in others, as it greets the God in us. Perhaps this is why we are so distraught when those of differing beliefs refuse to partake in the Eucharist with those whom they judge to be sinful. Though we allow for a priest to refuse communion to a communicant they deem to be an unrepentant sinner, to refuse to participate in the mass because one judges those around them to be sinful strikes us as counter to that which we were commanded to do. We recall some bishops not attending mass at the last Lambeth Conference due to theological differences, and now many of those same bishops are planning to boycott altogether. To refuse to engage in conversation is sad enough, but if one will not join another at table, are they not refusing to acknowledge God's presence in others? It seems hubristic at best.

The simplicity and sterility of 'Jesusables', though well intentioned, changes the meaning and nature of the Eucharist for us in an unsettling way. We are grateful we don't see it regularly in our parish nor in our travels, and hope it stays that way as we meet Christ and other children of God at the altar rail each Sunday.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

26 May 2019
*Though we have been informed that, while infrequent, and contrary to the rubrics in most prayer books, it does occur. This editorial is specifically referring to the use of these packages in the context of a Sunday service, not exploring usages in war zones, hospices, or hospitals.
†Richard Hooker
‡ See Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 2:22-25, Luke 22:17-20, John 13:34-35, 1 Corinthians 11:24–11:25

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