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COVID-19 protocols have required that we return to a historic practice in the church: distributing only the wafer (as symbolic bread) to the people while only the priest consumes the wine. There’s centuries of theology going on behind this decision – along with the deeply practical need to reduce the risk of disease spread.

What exactly happens with the bread (wafer) and wine in Holy Eucharist has been a huge theological topic for most of the life of the church. Some theologians focus on how these common elements “become” really body and blood of Jesus. Some theologians focus on how in a community Christ becomes present to us through the shared ritual. Some theologians throw up their hands and say “we don’t know but something happens for sure!”

If you have been wondering about our practices around Holy Eucharist, you might find this reflection from Sr. Constance Joanna, a member of the Anglican religious order the Sisterhood of Saint John the Divine helpful. It provides some historic background on how Anglican theology about what’s happening in Holy Eucharist developed and reflects a hopeful outlook on the ongoing conversations about “best ways” to respond to the COVID-19 protocols.