DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME
(St Luke 22: 19-20)
Not only is “necessity the mother of invention,” but it also drives us to imagination and creativity. Such has been the case since the onset of COVID-19 nearly a year ago when we were ordered, for our own protection and to slow the spread of this deadly pandemic, to shelter in place and to avoid large gatherings.
As the Lenten Season of 2020 approached, and the nation was under orders to stay at home, the question was raised, “How do we observe the Lord’s Supper, one of the Sacraments of the Church, while being responsive to prohibitions against assemblies – even in places of worship and visiting from house to house?”
In response to the query I posted, “Words of Edification, Inspiration and Instruction,” where I referenced an extreme case reported by Thomas G. Pettepiece in A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, where political prisoners who had neither wine nor water, or even a morsel of bread found joy in celebrating The Lord’s Supper in a “Communion of Empty Hands.” The lesson conveyed that the substance of the Sacrament far exceeds the symbols (elements) that are customarily used, especially when they are unavailable.
When I shared “The Communion of Empty Hands” in a recent meeting of the Council of Bishops, Bishop John Bryant, responded, “What? They don’t receive anything at all?”
Bishop Bryant was not the only one who felt this way. As we discussed the matter, we discovered that among our pastors and church leaders, imagination and creativity in the observance of the Lord’s Supper just as the political prisoners referenced above who observed the Sacrament with empty hands. With most areas on “lockdown” and the AME Church strongly discouraging in person worship in our sanctuaries, they were resourceful in keeping their constituency faithful and engaged – even finding ways to place “symbols in their hands.”
Some admitted parishioners to the Table of the Lord in “shifts” – “As these go, let others come.”
Some went outside the sanctuary, taking the consecrated elements out onto the church’s parking lot, and distributing them to persons who drove up to “grab and go.”
Some pre-packaged the “symbols” that represented the body and blood, and had them delivered to the homes of parishioners for “celebration” when the congregation assembled “virtually.”
The height of inclusivity, which presented a “stretch,” came when I heard a minister instruct her members as she knelt at the Communion Table to consecrate the elements, to get a cracker or wafer and “the drink of their choice” so that they could participate fully in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The rationale being, “There is no harm in “using what is available!”
According to Bishop Bryant, the critical thing in each of the aforementioned scenarios is that “the celebrant puts the holiness in the moment, which elevates it to a level above meaningless ritual.”
“Do this in remembrance of me.”