COMMUNION IN A TIME OF COVID – some thoughts for discussion

COMMUNION IN A TIME OF COVID – some thoughts for discussion

My son was killed some years ago in an accident.  I remember him mostly when I do things that we did together. I don’t need any other intervention. Just me and my memory.

Arguably the first disciples remembered meals they had with Jesus in the same way. The New English Bible then described the first followers of Jesus going to the temple and in their homes  ‘sharing their meals together with unaffected joy’. Paul describes what had been remembered of Jesus last meal with his disciples. He includes the words of Jesus, ‘do this in remembrance of me. The word ‘remembrance’ translates the word ‘anamnesis’. This literally means ‘re-member’, that is to reassemble that meal whenever they shared bread or wine – an ordinary meal. We are also told that we will eat unworthily if we do not discern ‘the body of Christ’.

No mention here of Bishops, Priests or Deacons. No church. A meal at home. People sharing with each other and trying to capture the essence of that last meal with Jesus: prayers, bread broken, wine shared. We are all equal under God, but over years we have decided humanly that someone set aside should emulate Jesus. If we are all truly equal we do not need that setting apart. We are, truly, a Priesthood of all Believers. Yet we honour that in word, but not in practice. The followers in Acts would, I think, find it, perhaps, pretentious that we would today be worrying over who, in our terms, ‘presides’. What are we trying to re-member? Arguably what was encapsulated in the sharing of that last meal. Sadly we risk reducing it into mechanical actions and specific words, or debate about what happens to the bread and wine, or who does what. That feels strange and it should. The arguments and statutes were laid down by people like us as the church was seeking to concretise them by circa 2OO CE, perhaps a matter of control, but sadly missing the central focus of an acted parable.

Around that first last meal was a disparate group of men who, if they candidated for ministry today might well be rejected. What is significant is not the ‘Elements’ but the people. Their leader washes their feet. He accepts two argumentative brothers, a terrorist (zealot), one who denies and another who betrays – a misbegotten group – an embryo church. This group is The Body of Christ and those who meet together for this anamnesis are The Body of Christ. We are the ones who should discern the value and significance of one another, our neighbours, our sisters and brothers and that is what really matters, to see Christ in each other and be Christ to each other.

I recognise the discipline of the church, but at a time like this I really think we are missing the point.  If sharing bread and wine with each other is a means by which we value each other and therefore offer a means of grace how we do it, where we do it and with whom we do it matters little. The status of the so called ‘President’ is irrelevant.

I write this in my own name and not that of the Methodist Church but it is, as Fred Kaan once wrote, ‘a sacrament of care’ that could ‘fill a human house with love’ –

To fill each human house with love,
it is the sacrament of care;
the work that Christ began to do
we humbly pledge ourselves to share.

From: ‘Now let us from this table rise’ Fred Kaan (1929-2009 © 1968 Stainer & Bell Ltd

Published by

Andrew Pratt

Andrew Pratt was born in Paignton, Devon, England in 1948. For his first degree he studied Zoology (B.Sc. Hons., London) before going to the University College of North Wales in Bangor. Andrew obtained a M.Sc. in Marine Biology which was partly dependent on a thesis on the Effects of sympathomimetic drugs on the rectum of Pleuronectes platessa (effects of drugs on the guts of the plaice). From here he went to St Luke’s College, Exeter, since absorbed into Exeter University, to study for a PGCE. Andrew taught in Essex, Wrexham, and Liverpool together with some brief spells of supply teaching since entering the ministry. Subjects have ranged through biology, chemistry, religious studies, swimming, personal and social education, and health education. During his M.Sc., he began to foster a belief in God. He became a member of the Methodist Church in Exeter. Moving to Essex he saw little of the church as both his parents died in a space of a year and he was away seeing them at weekends. In Wrexham (Gresford) he sensed a call to the ministry and in 1979 went for theological training at the Queen’s (Ecumenical) College in Birmingham. He was there for three years, partly doing a post graduate Diploma in Theology at Birmingham University and partly doing ministerial training. It was here that Andrew began to write hymns as a means of exploring theology. He had already written poems (mainly for private consumption!) one of which was published in a college magazine at St Luke’s in 1972. Since leaving Birmingham, Andrew has been stationed in Northwich, Nantwich, Leigh and Hindley, and Orrell and Lamberhead Green (near Wigan). While in Nantwich he began to achieve publication of his texts, firstly in Hymns of the City and then, under the guidance and constructive criticism of Bernard Braley, with some regularity in Hymns and Congregational Songs. Andrew was asked to be part of the groups that edited Story Song, Big Blue Planet and Sound Bytes. He has been regularly published in Worship Live and has had articles, hymns and reviews published in the The Hymn, The Bulletin of the Hymn Society of Great Britain and Ireland(of which has been the Editor since 2004) Theological Book Review, Writers News, Writing Magazine, the Methodist Recorder, Reform and Crucible. For some time he broadcast regularly on BBC Radio Merseyside. From 2004 he was a member of the Music Resource Group appointed to compile Singing the Faith, convening the words group until its dissolution in 2009 when he resigned. Blinded by the Dazzle, his first hymn collection, was published in 1997 by Stainer & Bell. Further collections, Whatever Name or Creed, Reclaiming Praise and More than Words were subsequently produced. Over a period of three years, with Marjorie Dobson, he wrote material for the Revised Common Lectionary which was published on www.worshipcloud.com HymnQuest includes over 1400 of his hymn texts. He is a Non-Executive Director of Stainer & Bell Ltd., and was instrumental in their establishing a web site (www.hymns.uk.com) carrying contemporary hymn texts which could be downloaded for local use. He is Chair of the Pratt Green Trust. On two consecutive years Andrew entered the Pratt Green Essay Competition, achieving second and joint first prizes. This work acted as a springboard for his research in hymnody. In 1997 he gained a M.A in English from the University of Durham for his research into Frederick Faber’s Hymns on the Four Last Things. He has researched the origins of the Methodist Hymn Book (1933) for a Ph.D., at Liverpool Hope University College. A book based on this research, O for a thousand tongues – the Methodist Hymn Book (1933) in context was published by the Methodist Publishing House. In 2004 he was appointed as a tutor and then Acting Principal at Hartley Victoria College (part of the Partnership for Theological Education in Manchester) to its closure in 2015. He continued as an Honorary Research Fellow with the Partnershp. While there he wrote Net Gains (Methodist Publishing House) and Study Skills for Ministry (SCM). He has lectured and led workshops in the UK, USA, Finland, Poland, Ireland, and Germany. He has written and contributed to many books relating to hymns and worship including Charles Wesley: Life, Literature and Legacy (2011, Epworth, edit., Ted Campbell, Kenneth G.C Newport), Why Weren't We Told? (2012, Polebridge Press, USA, R.A.E. Hunt) Hymn, song, society (2014, Unigrafia Finland, edit Tapani Innanen, Veli-Matti Salminen), Methodism Abounding (2016, Church in the Market Place, edit., John Vincent), The Servant of God in Practice (2017, Deo, edit., J.W. Rogerson and John Vincent). He has written a series of reflections on selected hymns of Charles Wesley (Inextinguishable Blaze) and co-written with Marjorie Dobson two books of worship resources, Poppies and Snowdrops and Nothing too religious (both Inspire, Methodist Publishing House). In 2017 with Jan Berry he edited and contributed to Hymns for Hope and Healing (Stainer & Bell Ltd). He was one time Chair of the Methodist Peace Fellowship.

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