Covid and the Eucharistic Common cup – an Anglican position
Abundant caution following the arrival of the covid pandemic in 2019 understandably saw the implementation of restrictions to slow and hopefully prevent the spread of the disease, including withdrawal of the common cup in the Eucharist. While many reverted to communion in one kind, we have also experienced widespread use of individual cups. Should communion in one kind or the use of individual cups now become the norm?
I consider there to be two reasons why use of the Common Cup reflects belief at the core of our Christian identity and therefore why the use of individual cups should not be normalised. These reasons run at greater depth than purely pragmatics: disposing of single use plastic cups, properly sanitising multiple glass cups, setting aside a tray of wine filled cups that appear to have no connection to the rite of consecration, disposing of wine remaining in little cups etc.
These words are plain, instructive, and directive. It is not possible or desirable to disentangle the use of the cup in Communion from the sacrament of grace it facilitates. A sacrament is an ʹoutward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual graceʹ. In this case the common cup is a sign of communal participation in the covenant of life, binding those gathered at the Lordʹs table. Receiving a piece of the broken bread or drinking from the cup is not to be reduced to personal or private communion with ʹmy Jesusʹ. It is to be a recipient of grace in the context of ongoing witness, service and sacrifice to the broken world which God in Christ came to redeem. It is even more than that. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was fond of saying ʺwe cannot be human aloneʺ. Wonderfully, in the Eucharist more than any other moment of life, as we take from the broken bread and share from the common cup, we celebrate our common shared humanity in Jesus, who gifts us with his divinity.
At the table of life, more than any other place, we want, we need, to celebrate as truly as we are able the reality at the core of our being - life in communion.
For all the above reasoning, the Common Cup is a central element in our Anglican ʹsonglineʹ. It should not be and cannot be easily abandoned.
Of course, its ongoing place in our life may be experienced differently. It may be that some form of intinction is widely adopted. Certainly, there should be a clear understanding that a person conscious of passing an infection of any kind should refrain from the cup on that day. At the very least the common cup should be available to all and its merits taught, even if a different option is made available.
This is not a small matter. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be a member of the Church of the triune God.