How Will the Lord’s Supper Be Served?

May 11, 2020

By Thom S. Rainer

I just participated in my first Lord’s Supper via a streaming service. My pastor asked us to have juice and bread ready in our homes. I served my wife, and then I served myself as our pastor prayed and read Scripture regarding the Supper.

It was different, but it was meaningful.

To be clear, I know different churches handle this ordinance differently. Some call it by another name such as Communion. Some have a common cup. Some have different theological understandings of its purpose and meaning. 

Many churches in my tradition have very small cups of juice on a plate with cup holders. And many have pieces of bread on a plate for each person to handle, pick up, and eat. 

Will these practices change as we return to in-person services? Maybe I should ask it differently. How will these practices change as we return to in-person services? 

I don’t have answers, but I do have questions. I hope to hear from some of you in the comments and others of you on social media. I will post the questions at Church Answers as well. 

  • Will your church return to its previous ways of handling the Lord’s Supper? In other words, the new normal of the post-pandemic era means you will return to serving the Supper with few changes. Do you consider some of the potential responses to be overreactions?
  • What hygienic changes will you make in preparing and serving the Lord’s Supper? I can only imagine these responses will be both diverse and helpful. For example, I have already heard that many churches will no longer be handing out bulletins/worship guides for hygienic reasons. The risk of handling seems even greater with the elements of the Lord’s Supper. 
  • Will your church change the frequency of serving the Lord’s Supper? I am assuming that if the frequency does change, it will be less frequent. Some churches have been serving every week. Some are on a monthly rotation, and others do so every quarter. What are the implications of frequency of serving for the future? 
  • If you have considered significant changes in serving the Lord’s Supper, how do you plan to communicate that to your congregation? They have already seen a lot of changes during the stay-at-home weeks of the pandemic. How will you prepare your church members for the changes that will come once they can gather in person? 

While there are many changes churches will and must implement in the post-pandemic era, the serving of the Lord’s Supper is one of those practices with rich theological and biblical meaning. The way churches handle this matter is not only one of safety and hygiene, it is one of profound theological implications. 

My list of questions is by no means exhaustive. I really would like to learn from you regarding your responses to these issues. It is indeed one of many issues; but it is also one of the most important issues. 

Let me hear from you.

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34 Comments

  • Bob Myers says on

    I’m late to the party, but I’ll add that a pastor friend of mine in a similar church as mine in another state is planning on doing Communion weekly rather than monthly as has been their (Baptist) tradition. This is the opposite direction of what Thom was suspecting.

    I’m considering it also for two reasons: 1) I place a very high value on the Table (not saying others don’t) and would gladly do it weekly as we “actively” remember (meaning the event being memorialized is brought forward into the present – the Jewish understanding of Passover) Christ’s death and resurrection. We are active participants with him rather than simply recalling the event. 2) When we open, it is likely that our musical leadership will be significantly depleted. While I am not eager for those circumstances, it will provide an opportunity to do less music but experiment with other liturgical elements that could bring fresh meaning out of this difficult season. My friend says his people are spiritually hungry and that’s why he is considering it. I concur.

    Of course, I will need to figure out how to do it safely. Certainly, we won’t pass the plate. I’m not a big fan of the self-contained units. People will need to come forward (in safe-distancing) and the elements will be safely distributed. I liked the idea that someone put forward having both the bread and the cup in their own cups, safely spaced in the tray. Or we might distribute the bread with tongs.

    This is a time for care and creativity.

  • Terry McNatt says on

    We have the pre-packaged single-serve Lord’s Supper packets that our church uses for Shut-ins. On the upside, that is the best way to insure the health safety of the bread and juice. On the downside, the juice is bitter and does not taste very good. We have tried shaking them, etc. but nothing seems to help. I know that is not a deal breaker, but when you take the time to go visit with someone and serve them the Lord’s Supper, it would be great if the experience could be both spiritual and palatable.

  • Starting in 2020 we began to serve the Lord’s supper every other month instead of quarterly. Planning to stay with that frequency.

    Also, I purchased pre-packaged single serve communion cups with the wafer wrapped into it since the pandemic to be ready when we go back to in-person services. I have had good and bad experiences with single serves in the past, so I think it does depend to some extent on which ones you get. I found some with good reviews…Will have to see how good they are and evaluate ease of use.

    Alternatively, I talked with another pastor pre-pandemic and he told me they were making their own single serve:
    Simply putting a piece of cracker in a cup and then putting a cup of juice over top of the cracker cup and then you don’t pass around twice…just once. Just a thought. He said it was working well for them. If the single serve cups don’t work well for us then we will try this method.

  • Before the shut down we served the Lords supper on the 15th of March. Deacons wore gloves and masks to prepare it. We took a cup and put bread in the bottom, then stacked another cup on top and filled it with juice. Our deacons served it with mask and gloves handing it to the individual. If we reopen, and have in person worship, which in Arkansas we can currently but are waiting, we may do that again. Possibly with drive-in church as well. Is someone is uncomfortable doing so will leave it up to them. Or will use self contained packs.

    • Craig Giddens says on

      Why can’t each person bring a bottle of water and a piece of bread? Why do they have to be served?

  • Joe Davis says on

    Our church is practicing and experiencing the Holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday online. The communion elements (grape juice/wine, bread/cracker) we traditionally use in church we gather are just efficient tools to demonstrate the blood and body of Jesus. Since we have never actually drunk His blood and ate His body, we have removed all the unnecessary symbolism. By faith, each Sunday, I ask those joining on line to grab a drink (water, juice, gatorade, ect) and a piece of bread or a Ritz/Nabisco cracker and let’s take communion. Now that we have removed barriers to communion, we actually have people take communion at home and sometimes a few times a few. Hence, “as much as ye do this, do it in remembrance of me”.

  • Jhaklyn says on

    The Lord’s Supper was originally celebrated as a meal. The Corinthian church shows us persons bringing their own wine/drink and bread/food. This practice may be the safest at this time.

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