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Veronica Zundel

You are so right Jonny. As a convinced Mennonite who has been worshipping in my parish church for three years (because my Mennonite church closed down), I now watch the livestreamed worship from my vicar's study and when it comes to the communion I have my own pottery chalice and plate and I consume bread and wine as he does. How can it be communion if only he is taking it? In the Mennonite church, which was entirely lay-led, we had communion as part of a prayerful meal once a month, and also lay-led communion on Sundays, we passed the bread and wine from person to person and felt no need of anyone specially privileged to lead it. I was baptized as a Baptist, and discovered 20 years later that I was really an Anabaptist, and I believe firmly in the priesthood of all believers. The only reason I landed in my parish church was that I loved its Anglo-Catholic worship and the way it engaged all the senses, and at the time I joined, it had a priest who preached like a Mennonite, about the non-violence of Christ and his radical inclusion. We now have an evangelical priest-in-charge who leads both the parish congregation and an evangelical church plant which uses the building. It is a somewhat uncomfortable situation!

Bob Stoner

Will this time, when in isolation, not able to frequent churches, will we see, eventually, the 'church', the body of people, freed from the some of the traditional rites and given the 'power' to express their particular way of worship? The issue may be if we elect to return to 'normality', not looking to learn from this period of 'separation'.

Jenny Taylor

I agree with every single angry word of this. Thank you Jonny. Good to see you remain true.

mary beth

As my priest remarked of the idea of him receiving communion and us watching, "there was a Reformation about that"

mark inglis

Jonny -I think you are spot on here. We have been told not to do this and their are vague threats hanging around if we do. The wrongness of this gets wrapped up in orthodox theology and presented back to us as fact. I have said elsewhere that a constituency of the church love church, and they love communion and in many cases love us, their ministers. And in response we say, no, we are denying this to you, but I / we will do it whenever we want and taunt you on line just to prove it.

Colin Udall

I was once asked to lead a communion service at a church where I was not authorised to do so. I pointed this out but the congregation just looked at each other and then responded with something along the lines of "We're just asking you to read a passage from the Bible where Jesus shared bread and wine and asked us to remember him in doing so. What can go wrong in doing that?" We need more enlightened churches like this.


The problem is that every sect that has split away to follow a outer way just goes on to form its own set of rules and rituals. We are made to be in communion with others, we need and want to gather together. If you feel intimidated by your leaders whoever they are you have a problem.

Martin Flatman

Well fine but why be a member of the Church of England then? I choose to be a Catholic because I believe the rules were created to protect us from Chaos. If anyone can celebrate then presumably I could use Black magic words or any other weird or wacky theology leading others astray. What starts as liberty ends up as a new kind of slavery.

Steve Collins

Reading the CofE guidelines, they seem to come from a wholly Catholic point of view about priesthood and sacraments - as Mary Beth points out, it's as if the Reformation had never happened. Whereas the Book of Common Prayer says, 'there shall be no celebration of the Lord's Supper, except there be a convenient number to communicate with the priest... [and if there are less than 20 people in the parish] there shall be no Communion, unless four (or three at the least) communicate with the priest.' And I dare say, in times of general sickness, that might have meant that there was no Communion. Communion happens in community.

And I love this: 'Any idea of the remote consecration of the bread and wine should be avoided.' Heaven forbid that we should imagine such a thing :D ! This is the kind of issue that would once have greatly exercised theologians, rather than being avoided. Of course, if the role of the priest is to *preside*, there is no problem in it happening remotely. And I can't think of a reason why consecration can't happen remotely either, if it's an act of God by request of the priest rather than an act of the priest. Assuming you believe in that kind of consecration...

Kenda Dean



The problem is this.

At the last supper Jesus instituted a new ritual act of worship and commissioned the apostles to continue this offering that they came to understand as the offering of Christ himself. This offering has never been made without that commissioning - without the ordering that Jesus explicitly established.

It takes shape in Acts, and is explicit by the end of C1st in the writing of the Apostolic Fathers.

Now I have lots of questions about who should be Presbyters (and Deacons) and how the Church of England handles that ministry. But the order goes back to Jesus.

I don't believe that Spiritual Communion is any less than Physical Communion in exceptional circumstances. I have never been in a context where someone in the church didn't need to receive this way.

But my essence as a Priest is to do exactly what Jesus commanded. To make the offering in living memory of Him. That is always for the whole world - not just for myself.

I also suspect that consecration can happen over a live stream, and the model of Communion we should be exploring should be more informal.


Michael Bigg

I hadn't actually read the recent guidance on Communion. I'm an Anglican priest and for the last 3 weeks I've been presiding over a live-streamed celebration of Communion from my study (that is remarkably like Common Worship Eucharistic Prayer B, but with minor changes to acknowledge that we are apart).

It's not authorised, but I've invited people to share their own bread and wine and receive it reverently. Is it a "proper sacrament"? I don't know, but I do know that people have received it as a gift from God. As John Donne (or possibly Elizabeth I) put it: "He was the Word that spake it, he took the bread and brake it, and what that Word did make it, I do believe and take it."

Brett "Fish" Anderson

Thank you so much for this - i resonate with so much of it and actually wrote my own reflection today which i think aligns with a lot of what you said. Jesus would find the religion that keeps people away from the table remembrance offensive or ludicrous surely...


Thank you and have a good sharing of the remembrance meal
love brett fish


Religion is man made
Faith is God given

Ed Dickel

Absolutely agree with you. The law or the spirit of the law? I can't imagine Jesus excluding anyone from the table. He fed the multitudes. There was no litmus test. A meal with friends includes the sharing of stories, laughter, tears, breaking bread and drinking wine. Now more than ever it is important to remember. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

Andrew Cave

The church gets in far too much of a lather about communion. It was both a gift to us all and an instruction: “Do this in remembrance....” The laws governing where, when and with and by whom came much later and - like all man-made laws - are riddled with holes and inconsistencies. I don’t think anyone should feel the slightest guilt at going by the spirit rather than the book in this case.

michelle Fotherby

This is such refreshing reading. We are ignoring CE guidelines. My boys (10 & 11) and I have been having communion together at home for the last 3 weeks using liturgy put together from various churches. We give each other the bread and wine and all lead on different parts. I will leave God to judge whether it is real or not. What I do know is that the experience has connected us to each other and God in a new and powerful way at this time. It didn't cross my mind to do anything else. So much more I could add.. This has actually felt like a guilty secret but decided to step out and comment after reading your post!


Absolutely agree


thank you so much everyone for your comments - apologies there is a delay in them appearing. i have to approve them because of spam though perhaps i should try turning that feature off and see if that is still a problem. there has been so much response to this on facebook, twitter and so on that i honestly can't keep up everywhere. but at least it seems to have provoked some conversation - i seem to have poked the bear as it were!

steve thanks - i found your piece really interesting - thanks for digging out those quotes.

but broadly speaking the comment i have made the most may be worth repeating here. my blunt point is about religious power. power of course is not bad in itself. it can be used to give and bring life. but it can go badly wrong and become dominating. i have bumped into toxic religious power a lot in my life. in some ways i would say it's my battle. i think it's partly because i advocate for pioneers who inevitable see something different to business as usual so whilst the powers say they need newness, in practice they really don't want change. theology is easily used to justify domination. so there have been lots of 'theoloigcal' responses that i struggle to know what to say in response. it's not that i mind the conversation. but that theology is often a power play in itself. it's also a very anglican thing to be clever with words and theology. so yes by all means have the theological discussion and i genuinely like taking part in those. but in response to what i am saying the question is not 'what is our theology?' but 'is there any truth in what jonny is saying? i.e. have we colluded with controlling religious power? are we in danger of stitching up the curtain?'. i may be wrong but the area i fear there is blindness with those who have power is that there is a strength of feeling here - a lot of people feel this very deeply.

Val Cuffe-Adams

This is so helpful. Thank you - been thinking so much about this re: lay ministry.

June Boyce-Tillman

I really appreciate this debate. I think we are in the midst of the conversation of Jesus with the woman at the well where we do not need the temples but can worship in spirit and in truth. The temples may still be helpful for some people but are not the beginning and end of worship as they have sometimes perhaps oftrn been more concerned about exclusion than inclusion. We are in a time of disorder which is as God -given as order. But change will only come if we can enter it with hope and discernment. June

Anne Christian

thank you, thank you thank you. At last, someone in print and people openly agreeing. The Church of England is retreating into a priestly hierarchy which is completely unhelpful and possibly unsustainable. Their response to this current crisis is the equivalent of putting all non-priests behind a barbed wire fence and forcing them (us) to watch, while a privileged class take part in the Lord's banquet - as the rest of us watching them are starving . Jesus would probably be the first to tear down the fence.

Steve Page

Thanks Jonny. Well set out. How we live out the priesthood of all believers is important.
We're each subject to our own tribe's traditions that have built up over time. As someone asked me recently- why do I make a distinction between Jesus' instructions for bread and wine and his instructions for washing feet at the same last supper.
At this time of enforced distancing we need creative thinkers to help us commune with one another and we must take the new lessons learned into the post lockdown period.

Bryony Davis

I once met someone from the CofE Liturgical Commission (at Greenbelt Festival!) and discussed my frustration as a priest at the many restrictions that hemmed in our worship and particularly communion. They told me that practice is what leads to change and that it's essential to break the rules to bring about change. I have always followed their advice!

Phil Simpson

I found this so very helpful and it encourages resistance to 'control'.
I think Communion with companions (people who share bread together) is essential, and we need to be experimental in these strangest of times ......
I also saw an article in the church times which I saw as a hopeful sign (and interestingly from a woman priest who was also a prison chaplain - so great pedigree! right on the edge/margins of the institutions where the creative, interesting stuff happens ).

Stephen MARCH

I would counter-balance this argument with the New Testament church experience. If you look at the Johannine communities - those founded by St John - or who took his writings as their foundational documents - they were very much pneumatically focused and suspicious of all hierarchical leadership structures (the Spirit will guide us into all truth was their motto). Yet the sad experience was that each of them fell by the wayside even before the Johannine texts were accepted into the canon of scripture. Some fell into Gnostic heresy, others were absorbed back into Judaism. So whilst I agree that hierarchies are always human and flawed and that they often tend to be over controlling and limit some freedoms they might be healthy; the experience of the Church is that we need them. They provide a necessary guard against error, false-practice and falling away. If you want to read more of this I recommend Raymond E. Brown's 'The Community of the Beloved Disciple' and more broadly, 'The Churches the Apostles Left Behind'.

Letty Wilson

Hi Jonny
Thank you so much for airing this debate and for seeking a good way through this situation. I completely agree with your resistance to religious control, I too am very suspicious of anyone exerting power in a controlling way, as are the priests I know (and bishops actually) in the Church of England.
I wonder if you have spoken to the priests and bishops you know about what they are doing in regard to this issue? I know some locally who are abstaining from communion in solidarity with their congregations, I know some who are encouraging agape meals, and some who are praying and hoping that in consuming the bread and wine in a streamed service themselves they are communicating the love that Christ has for us all. You are not alone in standing against religious control, nor in wanting to find a life-giving way forward. You have a very loud voice in the church, may it will continue to encourage unity and creativity.

Melita Gordon

Thanks Jonny. A long, strong Amen to all this. That the church can say its role is 'pastoring and feeding a flock', and then to wilfully and needlessly leave it "starved" (by its own definition) on the outside of the banquet just beggars belief. A dismal chapter in Anglican history. More life-giving imagination, and less neurotic control needed. As lay people we remotely 'fed and nourished' my Dad who was completely isolated while my Mum was in a care home. It was not primarily a political act (although it was that too I suppose), it was an act of community, need and compassion. It was a reverent, holy and real thing. I would do it again in a heartbeat. End of.

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