Dear Siblings in Christ,
The past six months have been challenging on many levels. For committed Christians used to gathering together to worship, the past months have two presented particular challenges: they have been cut off from their faith community and unable to receive the Eucharist.
On Sunday, August 16 a congregation of up to 50 people will be able to take part in the 10:30am Choral Eucharist in person and receive communion.
Some safety precautions won’t be visible to the congregation: the church will be sanitized before doors open to allow parishioners into the nave, as will all the vessels used during the service.
Participants will notice the celebrant sanitizing their hands before the consecration. After the breaking of the bread the celebrant will consume the priest’s host and the wine. The wafers used for the congregation will be on the altar, off to the side, during the consecration. Before moving to distribute communion the celebrant will put on their mask and sanitize their hands once again.
Instead of the traditional “communion line” the celebrant will come down from the altar and give communion to each person in the congregation. The decision was made to distribute the Eucharist this way because it was felt that trying to move through the nave, into a communion line, and then back to the seats, could make it difficult to maintain proper physical distancing. Both symbolically and physically, Jesus will come to you.
While it may seem counterintuitive, congregants will be asked to keep their masks on during this process. The celebrant will come to the congregant, place the communion wafer in their hand – taking great care to avoid accidentally touching the communicant’s hand – and move on to the next person. Once the priest has moved on to the next person, the congregant can remove their mask and consume the Eucharist. Communion will be distributed in wafer form only.
One other notable difference during the service will be the music. The Choral Eucharist often involves favourite hymns that the congregation can join in singing. Because of the heightened risk presented by singing, the congregation will be expected not to sing along during the service.
If you’ve attended one of the in-person prayer services at the Cathedral over the last month, you will notice some things will stay the same. The lower level of the building will be closed to the public. Washrooms will also be closed to the public, expect for emergencies. There is still one entrance (the upper laneway doors) and one exit (the west nave doors leading into the memorial garden). As wonderful as it is to see the clergy, friends and fellow parishioners once again, there will not be a receiving line after the service and everyone will be asked to refrain from socializing inside the nave after the service.
By following these safety guidelines the Cathedral community is doing its part to help keep transmission rates low and the wider community safe.
The Rev. Dr. Christopher A. Pappas