Pillar and Cloud, an APLM-sponsored network of congregational leaders, hosted a Zoom meeting on Thursday, October 8th to discuss liturgical theology and practice in light of the pandemic. Participants included lay liturgical planning team members as well as clergy and diocesan leaders from across the US and Canada who shared resources for being sensitive to the needs of congregants and ideas about how to increase tangible participation in the Eucharist in light of the pandemic.
One member shared a version of the Prayers of the People based on the Prayer of St. Francis. The language used recognized the anxiety many are feeling and prayed for peace during this time of pandemic and political strife. Another member shared the practical how-to’s for using short distance radio transmission to broadcast services outside to those who do not feel safe (or can’t fit) inside the church building. This strategy allows for the distribution of communion to congregants distanced and sitting outside the building or in their cars in the parking lot.
The term “lay eucharistic distributors” was coined by a member of the group. This potential strategy for wider distribution of communion elements involves having in-person worshippers take communion bread from the service to at-home worshippers. Both the theological and practical aspects of such a practice were considered by participants and centered around how to move from a consumerist mentality about communion to a deeper understanding of how the tangible symbol of bread when shared teaches us who we are and how we are to be as the body of Christ.
Practices around communion wine were explored as well. Can one flagon of wine and multiple cups rather than one cup from which we all drink speak powerfully to us about unity? How might that approach avoid the necessity of so many plastic dosage cups? What evocations do we lose when we don’t consume the wine? What is performed if only one person partakes of the wine, and who should that one person be? How can our waiting relative to the communion elements be a fruitful spiritual practice?
Bringing liturgical planning team members together to share ideas, both theological and practical, is what Pillar and Cloud is all about. The network is designed to be a safe place for creative brainstorming, conversation, resource sharing, and feedback. Exploring various options for how to meet this current moment from both practical and theological perspectives opened depths of understanding and energized the church leaders in the recent virtual meeting. By sharing their questions and creativity, Pillar and Cloud members have started to create a well of resources for future liturgical planning and a community of leaders that empower each other for ministry.