It’s not exactly a hot button issue for many folks, I know. But for theological purists it’s a valid question all the same. For after all, it is by definition a communal meal. So is it possible to offer Holy Communion with integrity when the community is not actually present? Or to put it another way, if the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is about breaking bread together, can it really be shared when everyone is instead scattered?
And at least my answer is yes. For when Jesus told us to eat the bread and drink the juice or wine in remembrance of Him whenever we do so, I think He meant that just as taking bread and drink is a daily occurrence in all of our lives, so too He desires to be in our everydayness as well. And especially when our circumstances are stressed as at present, we have a need to experience His closeness now more than ever.
In that sense, the question of whether or not Holy Communion can be shared digitally via livestream when the congregation is diffused across numerous households, and even around the world, is more of a pastoral issue than a strictly theological one, I think. For Jesus Himself made it plain that the exercise of His power is not confined to His physical presence at all.
In Mark 8, for example, we read that the Lord honored the faith of a Syro-Phoenician mother by exorcising a demon or impure spirit from her daughter without ever even seeing the girl. And similarly, when a Roman centurion came to Jesus asking for his servant to be healed the soldier told the Master that He did not need to come to his house as he was not worthy. Instead, the man asked, “just say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8.8) and when Jesus did so, his servant, so the gospel tells us, was healed “at that moment.”
I believe thus that we can ask the Spirit of God to come to all of our homes and use whatever bread and juice we may have gathered for a moment of drawing close to Him and each other as we corporately remember all that Jesus has done for us. Even while I respect that others may feel differently, we will continue to offer Holy Communion as we did Sunday during our livestream service on a regular basis until the glorious day when we can all assemble in person once more.
For in the end, it’s about connecting to the One who has invited us not just to His table but has blessed us all by coming to ours as well.