Midweek Message: "Holy Communion Outdoors – What You Can Expect"

Evening Prayer via Zoom on Ascension of Our Lord, Thursday, May 13

Please join us at 6:30 pm this coming Thursday, May 13 via Zoom for Evening Prayer on Ascension of Our Lord. The Zoom meeting information will be distributed via Constant Contact. If you do not receive our Constant Contact mailings, please contact the Church OFfice.

pdfEvening Prayer, Ascension of Our Lord, May 13, 2021

“Holy Communion Outdoors – What You Can Expect”

Dear Christian Friends:

Throughout Eastertide, we continue to proclaim that Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!

And now we are also approaching the Day of Pentecost, Sunday, May 23, at which time and outdoors we will also resume the celebration of Holy Communion. Thanks be to God! This is an outcome for which so many have longed for many long months. The last time I presided at a liturgy of Holy Communion was March 1, 2020, the Sunday you voted to call me as pastor. Loving concern for those most vulnerable to the coronavirus motivated our fast from central things during the pandemic, not least of which has been the Eucharist.

However, given the extent of vaccinations in our region, the decreasing numbers of cases, serious illnesses and deaths in our area, along with official word from the CDC that there is a very low risk of infection from contact with surfaces, leaders at Resurrection Church among the Worship and Music Committee, the Reopening Planning Group, and the Congregation Council have determined that it is safe to return to the Eucharist, albeit outdoors.

Several members have enquired of me what to expect in terms of the particulars of celebrating Holy Communion outdoors in ways that are appropriate, safe, and faithful to Christian tradition.

First off, we will still need to wear our masks – even those fully vaccinated. Likewise, we will continue to observe physical distancing. Hard copy bulletins with everything you need for worship will be provided to outdoor worshipers. In addition to worship outdoors, the bulletin for worship at home will continue to be available on Sundays along with the weekly watch-through video and individual video clips. This we pledge to do to accommodate those who do not yet feel able to return in person at this time, even if it’s outdoors.

Secondly, the Congregation Council has determined that outdoor worship will begin at 9:30 am each Sunday, beginning on Pentecost, May 23. This earlier time, when it is cooler in summer, reflects the reality that in coming weeks, worship at noon will be in the full heat of the day. 9:30, I am told, is also a time in keeping with Resurrection’s history of summer worship.

You can also expect a liturgy that more fully resembles the complete Sunday service we are used to. That is, what we’ll begin doing on May 23 will be substantially longer than the fifteen-minute truncated service we’ve been doing outdoors for several months. Which is to say, we encourage you to bring your own lawn chairs or picnic blankets since you may not want to stand the whole time for a more lengthy worship service! We will also likely provide a limited number of folding chairs from the church for those who don’t have lawn chairs to bring.

Moreover, beginning on Pentecost, all Sunday worship outdoors will be held on the parsonage side of the church. We will no longer meet on alternating Sundays on the Potomac Street side. This way, you won’t have to wonder where we are assembling. However, collection of food items every other week, twice a month, will continue to take place, but on the parsonage side.

In order to preserve the integrity of the Revised Common Lectionary and the diversity of scriptural voices it expresses, we will hear all of the appointed readings for coming Sundays. Additionally, there will be communal singing of hymns and worship songs, punctuating important parts of the liturgy. While I don’t plan to offer a lengthy Sunday sermon, my homiletical response to the readings will be more than the brief reflections I have offered in our truncated outdoor prayer services. We will continue to pray the full prayers of intercession each Sunday.

Yes, we shall also return to the sharing of Christ’s Peace – but alas, no handshakes or hugs at this time, please. You may want to bow to your neighbors in Christ, or wave to them, or offer some other appropriate, faithful, but physically distanced gesture.

As for the offering, that detail has not yet been settled on, but we are not likely to pass offering plates among those assembled on the church lawn. A more likely scenario is that an offering basket will be available at the fence separating the parsonage and church yards where you can place your offering as you come forward for Communion.

During the time of offering, a table, the one that resides on the parsonage deck, will be set for Holy Communion. A choir or ensemble may offer music during this time from their place on the new, brick parsonage patio. The assisting minister and I, as presiding minister, will cleanse and sanitize our hands prior to handling the bread and wine. And as I have written previously, the fence separating the church and parsonage yards will serve as a communion rail.

Which is to say, what will be the particulars for receiving the Eucharist? We intend to offer Communion in both kinds, the baked bread that Resurrection has normally used in recent years, and also the wine. A piece of the blessed bread will be dropped into your hands, palms up – with no physical contact occurring between presiding minister and communicants. The blessed wine will be administered via a specially made stoneware chalice with a pouring lip. The assisting minister will pour the wine into a receptacle, which for safety purposes, you will need to bring from home. For ease of pouring, you are encouraged to place your receptacle, such as a small juice glass, on the top of the fence – there is ample room and a flat surface for that. If you do not wish to receive the wine, you need not. You will receive the fullness of Christ’s presence in, with, and under the bread only. Gluten free hosts will be available as usual for those who need that option.

Ushers will help you find your way to the fence/altar rail in ways that are appropriately physically distanced. Couples and families may commune together as a pod, but separate from other individuals, couples and families, lining up, standing, at the fence/altar rail. Those administering Communion will work their way down the line at the fence/altar rail. When you receive the bread and wine, you can make your way, physically distanced, back to your place on the lawn. After all have communed, the liturgy will conclude in the usual way.

What about inclement, rainy weather? Bring an umbrella!

So, this is what we propose, beginning on Pentecost, Sunday, May 23 at 9:30 am. As has been our experience with worship outdoors in recent months, I suspect that our routine will evolve in ways that help us fine-tune the details. While we are trying to anticipate and cover all details, there will be inevitable glitches. Kindly be patient with us as we live into this new reality of the greater fullness of worship outdoors.

But most significantly, and to reiterate, thanks be to God that Christ will once again soon gather us to himself in the fullness of Word and Sacrament!

With such thanks to God in Christ,

Pastor Jonathan Linman