Communion Online

Holy Communion Online



The Worship & Music Committee and Pastor Jeff will start to introduce having Holy Communion for our online worshipers. This will begin on Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022. Moving forward, we will integrate this into our hybrid worship, allowing for online worshipers to participate in the sacrament. We feel that receiving Communion both in person and online is spiritually healthy and will allow us to expand our table beyond the walls of St. John.

For more details, especially “How it will work,” see the article below.


How We Got Here

COVID-19 has challenged so many aspects of our public life, including virtually everything we do as Church (the capital “C” Church refer to the universal Christian church). Churches rely on being together live and in person. Worship, fellowship, service, Christian education, and meetings. Before COVID, we did all of these things in person and couldn’t imagine any situation or need that would change how we did these things.

Online worship was the stuff of televangelists and megachurches.

Friday, March 13, 2020, changed the Church forever. Now as mask mandates are being lifted and much of our public life is returning to “normal,” some people in the Church want it to return to the way it was before COVID. As with 9/11, once we have experienced something like this together, we are changed by it and there is no way to un-ring that bell.


What We’re Learning

We found that having meetings, especially at night, can actually be better and include people who might not otherwise have been able to attend. We found that offering worship and Bible study online using Zoom enables us to maintain connections with people who either cannot attend in-person worship or who are out of the area. Physical presence may be more ideal and enjoyable, but limited physical circumstances, sickness, and travel do not prevent us from being present to one another or keep God from being present to us. We have found that gathering together online allows us to be a real and valid community together. Gathering online is not virtual community; it is real community.

Receiving Holy Communion (a.k.a. the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist) has been a struggle for us. For years, the Lutheran Church has encouraged weekly Communion. We teach that it is an important part of our faith life and community. As Lutherans, we believe that the elements of bread and wine become for us the true body and blood of Jesus Christ - not merely a symbol. People worshiping by Zoom have not been able to receive Holy Communion through the pandemic, except when we have distributed pre-consecrated elements or with an in-person pastoral visit.

What Happens at the Altar?

As we receive Holy Communion, we watch as the pastor lifts up the elements of bread and wine, speaks the words of institution, and, with a communion assistant, physically hands the consecrated bread and wine to each person in worship. We say “the pastor has consecrated the elements.” If the pastor consecrated the elements, how did that happen and when?

Pastors cannot transform elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus without the power and intervention of the Holy Spirit. They can invite the Holy Spirit to do its transformative work on behalf of the worshiping community. So, pastors preside at the altar, but it is the Holy Spirit who consecrates the elements and makes them into holy food and a means of grace for us.

The writers of the Bible could not have foreseen the technological capabilities of our time, including electricity and indoor plumbing. So, there is no specific guidance or prohibition about receiving Holy Communion in an online environment. Biblical references speak of abuses in which some people ate their fill and even got drunk in what was supposed to be Holy Communion while others did not receive anything. The Bible speaks of discerning the body and blood, and self-examination. It does not give specifications about the distance between the presider and the elements. Is there a distance at which the pastor can no longer consecrate the elements?

The Bible has very little detail about the specifics of Communion. We have relied on tradition that has developed since the time of Jesus, which has said that only male pastors/priests could consecrate the elements and that must be done in the context of a church sanctuary or with a person in their home or hospital. In 1970, the Lutheran church began ordaining women who were able to consecrate the elements - a break from that tradition. The role of the pastor is to ensure that the sacraments are rightly administered.

So, if the pastor/presider is inviting the Holy Spirit on behalf of the worshiping community and it is the Holy Spirit who actually consecrates the elements, is it possible that the pastor/presider could invite the Spirit to do its transformative work when people are not in the same physical space?

We don’t actually know how the Holy Spirit does this transformative work, but we trust that the Spirit is present with us. The Holy Spirit is not limited.

How it Will Work

Beginning on Palm Sunday, Holy Communion will be offered during both the hybrid and any Zoom services we have. When we gather for worship, each person worshiping from home is invited to have at hand bread and wine. If these are not available, you may also use grape juice or water, and cracker, roll, or pita. We suggest small amounts that can be consumed during worship.

Pastor Jeff will preside at the table and invite the Holy Spirit on behalf of the community to do the Spirit’s work of transformation on the elements of bread and wine, and, by extension, on us. We do not know how the Holy Spirit does this, but that the Spirit does this work as an act of grace so that we might “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Bread and wine that remains after Holy Communion should not be returned to common use such as using the bread in a sandwich, but should be reverently consumed or poured to the ground.

If you have questions, please contact Pastor Jeff Wilson.



The Use of the Means of Grace

Luther’s Small Catechism and other resources