This is more of a placeholder than a post (though I might take the opportunity over the days of this week to add a thought or two or a link or three).
I have found myself, you may have also, embroiled in the past week or so in online and offline discussions about "online eucharist".
The discussions are catalysed by being in [COVID-19] Lockdown (so much of the Anglican world is locked down that it is a global discussion) and, perhaps, heightened/intensified by the prospect of Maundy Thursday and Pascha (Easter) being without eucharist this year.
Some posts - read by me, there are many other posts - on popular sites are worth drawing attention to re the online church in general and online eucharist in particular:
Ian Paul at Psephizo: here and here.
Bosco Peters at Liturgy: here and here and here.
Obviously many of us are getting rapidly used to worshipping via online services, whether organised by our local parish church or by Diocesan or national church offices. If one doesn't like the local offering, the Archbishop of Canterbury is ramping up his online presence!
Out of early Sundays in this period, in respect of eucharist, two matters are clearly emerging for consideration and reflection. (By "emerging" I mean at least this: I had not previously given them much, if any thought!).
1. Online eucharist with non-participatory communion for the participating congregation.
2. Online Eucharist with participatory communion for the participating congregation.
Let me explain (if you are not yet aware of the distinction here):
1. Observing the "rule" re participation in the eucharist, a priest with at least one other person in his or her "bubble" (secure domestic arrangement consistent with requirements of the Lockdown), celebrates the eucharist in front of a video device, the celebration including sharing of communion between priest and those in the bubble. But no parishioner in their home breaks or takes bread and eats it, takes a cup of wine and drinks it. (An emphasis on this approach is on "Spiritual Communion" for those unable to receive communion because they are not in the same bubble as the priest. I won't discuss Spiritual Communion further here.)
2. Above as for 1 but with this addition: in their own homes parishioners share in communion using bread and wine they themselves have provided. In this approach "consecration" is understood to have taken place via electronic means.
Incidentally, in relation to such matters, a widely read statement is this one from the London College of Bishops.
In the light of my title for this post an understandable question would be, "So, then, what is a Zoom Eucharist?" The answer is that (to date) Zoom as a video platform for meeting with others online is the best platform I am aware of for enabling the participants to the service to see one another (as well as the priest) via "gallery view." That is, a "Zoom Eucharist" (or any other form of Zoom service) offers the best sense of real time "participation" for a scattered congregation.
Now, naturally, a host of questions arise (as you will see if you read Ian's and Bosco's posts above):
- what is consecration in the age of online services?
- what is a congregation in respect of gathering together via online means?
- why a priest (or bishop) is needed (or not needed) if we can have (valid) communion via provision of our own bread and wine?
- Actually, is (2) (perhaps even, is (1)) above a valid communion service? (There are slightly differing issues to be considered for 1 and 2. On option 1, for example, there is an exclusion of participation of the baptised in communion which is contrary to the "invitation").
- If we accept the possibilty of consecration over the internet, does it make a difference if the service offered has been prerecorded, or must it be "live"?
- Pragmatically, why not just "get on with it" in this unusual time? (And ban it for normal times; and/or do the theological work on this later).
Now, these are lively questions and some think they have the answers and others are deeply puzzled.
Here I am not going to do the hard yards on attempting answers.
In any case, a bishop has some other questions to ask and answer at a time like this, including:
- what is lawful in ACANZP?
- what is the common ground which holds my Diocese together at this time?
Finally, an observation:
- I know of no Roman Catholic discussion about (2) above. (1) is happening in the Catholic world.
- That is, once again, we Anglicans are notable on a matter of the day, doing something which could be described as either "pushing the boundaries, bending the rules, never content to endure any constraint or limitation which we do not like" or "evolving and adapting to the ever changing contexts of the world around us". Take your pick!!
With best wishes for Holy Week!