July 18, 2021

Back to Church

 I attended church today for the first time since early last year. This was only the second Sunday since the pandemic shut down much of the country that Christ Episcopal Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania, offered an in-person Eucharist at 10:30. I was out of town last Sunday, so today offered my first chance to attend an almost normal principal service.

Our 8:00 a.m. service has been conducted in the church with a congregation for a while, but the 10:30 service has mostly been Daily Morning Prayer: Rite Two streamed over Facebook. The early service began with a mask requirement, but both services now allow fully vaccinated worshipers to go maskless. Only alternate pews are used to keep people well separated. For the foreseeable future, the 10:30 service will continue to be streamed.

I used to view myself as a competent Rite Two Eucharist worshiper who seldom opened a prayer book in church. I felt a little less certain of myself this morning, however. I consulted my prayer book and bulletin more often than I have done so in a long time. The Passing of the Peace was largely an exercise in waving, but I did throw caution to the winds and indulged in one fist bump.

Communion elements
Communion was a new experience, one unlikely to change any time soon. We employed no common cup and did not distribute the host directly. Instead, the rector placed small glassine envelopes on a table in the front of the center aisle. Each envelope contained a wafer moistened with a drop of wine. Five people at a time picked up their envelopes and distributed themselves along the communion rail. We then consumed the wafers on cue and saved the envelopes for disposal at the back of the church at the end of the service. This was only slightly weird.

In addition to finally being able to partake of the consecrated bread and wine (sort of), I was especially happy to sing hymns in a group. The Vestry had talked of singing softly, but no one insisted on that, and it felt really good to sing normally.

I look forward to a return to a more thoroughly normal service, but today’s experience did seem like a significant milestone.

Question: How are other churches that have employed the common cup handling communion?

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