By Andre Weston
On October 10 and 17, two churches in Hawaii participated in something that many churches—for good reasons—have avoided: conducting communion service during the COVID-19 pandemic. With all of the public health limitations and precautions, it certainly makes a lot of sense to hold off on some elements of church life that are very involved, such as the ordinance of humility and the Lord’s Supper.
Yet, if communion service was accomplished, and safety protocols and precautions were honored in the process, a great opportunity to refresh weary souls by coming together in this special way would be a noteworthy footnote for a year full of virus-related cancellations, changes, and limitations.
Prayerfully, I decided to present the idea of attempting a pandemic-adjusted communion service to my churches in Hilo and Puna. I explained that we would have to follow safety guidelines and that this would call for some flexibility and changes to our traditional approaches for this service. I also emphasized that this would be a good way to rally our church family around what matters most: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at the cross.
Both church boards warmly supported the idea, and after planning, praying, and rehearsing, we conducted our adjusted communion service. The serving parties and congregants wore masks. Instead of passing plates of wine and bread during the service, these items were pre-packaged in small sauce cups with lids and distributed in advance to our congregants. Physical distancing was maintained throughout the service, and congregants took the bread and wine when prompted in a self-serve style. One church opted to table the foot-washing service altogether, while the other church allowed persons who resided in the same household to do footwashing among themselves.
The highlight, however, was not the COVID-19 adjustments but rather the power that comes from the Holy Spirit when God’s people remember and receive anew the sacrifice of Jesus. “I am reminded of Matthew 5:16, which says, ‘Let your light so shine before men,’” said Fernando Martinez of the Hilo Church. “With communion, we were able to bring some normalcy to church. Starting with the sermon, we were reminded of the sacrifice that was made for us. The Spirit was moving in the congregation. As we entered into communion, I felt God’s presence there. As I looked around, I saw peace in everyone’s eyes. Having communion brought a sense of unity.”
For both the Hilo and the Puna churches, this was the only communion service held in the year, due to the pandemic. These two churches were willing to partner with God to accomplish something special, and maybe even rare, and they safely experienced communion service in these unconventional times.
Paul encourages us, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11: 26, NIV). I believe God smiles whenever we proclaim the sacrifice of Jesus with gratitude and remembrance of His love in our hearts.