VIDEO: Guidelines for Distributing Holy Communion

Guidelines for Distributing Holy Communion

Effective June 28, 2020

Covid-19 continues to infect large numbers of people. We are not certain what future infection rates might look like. The rate of infection varies from county to county in Arkansas; there are many locations where continuing online worship should be the only way that congregations gather, but there are locations where—with proper safety protocols—it is possible to resume in-person worship. These locations are subject to change, given changes in infection rates.

For Episcopalians, the Holy Eucharist is the normal form of in-person worship, especially on Sundays. The realization that the spread of Covid-19 is primarily, but by no means exclusively, a respiratory transmission makes it possible to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and distribute Holy Communion IF your congregation is in a location where in-person worship is an acceptable risk, and IF you are willing to follow sensible health guidelines. 

If you choose to distribute Holy Communion, please take the following steps to minimize the possible spread of the virus. 

  • As with other gatherings, try keep the number of people present to under fifty until we determine that larger gatherings do not present an unacceptable health risk. The congregation should follow all social distancing guidelines already in effect.
  • In preparing for the Eucharist, use wafers only. Do not use home baked bread. 
  • Altar guild members may set up empty patens, chalices, and linens prior to the service.
  • One priest is in charge of all aspects of Holy Communion, including the preparation, consecration, and distribution of Holy Communion. Additional priests, deacons, acolytes, or altar guild members should not assist, except to help the celebrant apply hand sanitizer. The celebrant should even be in charge of removing wafers from the container in which the church purchased them, thereby assuring that only one person ever touches the wafers. Good hand sanitation is important in all stages of the process. 
  • The bread and wine to be used should have been placed on a credence table or the altar before the liturgy. Take whatever steps necessary (such as putting a few wafers on each of several patens and covering each paten with a purificator) so that the counting of wafers and their handling is kept to a minimum. Any wafers that will be used to take to the homebound will be placed in a separate pyx, also covered by a purificator.
  • The celebrant’s host should be on a separate paten from other wafers. 
  • Only sufficient wine and water for the celebrant to receive is placed in a chalice. Consecrated Wine will not be distributed to others.
  • During the entire Eucharistic canon, purificators remain in place over the wafers that will be distributed. Because these purificators are in place, the priest does not need to wear face covering during the Eucharistic canon.
  • During the Consecration, the celebrant lays hands on the celebrant’s host, but should merely touch the purificators covering any other patens.
  • After receiving the consecrated Bread and Wine, the celebrant will use hand sanitizer and put on a face covering before distributing consecrated Bread, first to any other members of the clergy and then to other communicants.
  • Communicants should wear a face covering when coming forward to receive Communion. They can temporarily remove it when consuming the consecrated Bread.
  • People should stand in line, socially distanced, to receive Communion, not kneeling side by side at an altar rail.
  • The celebrant is not to touch the hands of communicants when distributing Communion and is not to place consecrated Bread in the mouth of a communicant. If the celebrant touches a communicant’s hand, the celebrant will apply hand sanitizer before continuing to distribute Holy Communion. An assisting priest, deacon, or acolyte can help the celebrant apply hand sanitizer if desired.
  • The celebrant will apply hand sanitizer immediately after distributing Holy Communion and before consuming leftover Bread.
  • The priest will consume any remaining consecrated Bread following the liturgy. It will not be reserved. Only the Bread that is contained in a pyx to take to the homebound will not be consumed following Holy Communion.
  • Other people, such as altar guild members, may afterwards clean vessels and linens.