Gatherings of 10 or fewer

Many pastors now face mandatory restrictions limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer.

If you include the pastor, that means you can have 9 people hearing the Word and receiving the sacrament. Obviously, we’ve been talking about this a lot amongst ourselves: How to faithfully minister in such a situation?

After lots of talking to other pastors, it seems like the following might allow for the greatest number of parishioners given the gifts in the most expeditious manner possible.

Service begins at the normal time. 9 people are admitted. They sit in row 1. The pastor leads a spoken service of 20-30 minutes including the sacrament. The pastor gives the host. A communion try of cups sits on a table next to him. Each person comes forward, the pastor gives the host, then says the words “The blood of Christ, shed for you” as the person takes a little cup, and places it on a second tray when they are finished, then returns to their seat. When the service is finished, the group exists out a second door. The next group comes in from the parking lot. They sit in row 3. Repeat as necessary until all have been served. Cleanse the building after the series of services are finished.

I’m not a fan of individual cups. The chalice is more hygienic. But for the sake of time, it may have to be for a while that we use a practice that is ahistorical and arises from a lot of bad theology (it started in the Baptistic churches) for the sake of time. I have another service in a far-flung location soon after. I have (at most) 80 minutes to serve everyone. And I will need every second, even in my small parish, if we move to 10 at a time.

Here is the 30 minute service I have used for Holy Week midweek services, with a reduced Litany. It could be easily adapted to fit a variety of situations. It will give an idea of what sort of material can be included in a 30 minute service.

30 Minute Spoken DS

With so much fear, our people need to have as many opportunities to receive God’s gifts as we can give them. In some areas, no travel is permitted. Facebook feeds of services led from the pastors dining room table are likely in our future, at least for a while. Obviously no sacrament then, but our people can still be fed with the word. We are coming ever closer to our Lord’s fast which we heard of on the first Sunday of Lent: No food for 40 days, sustained only by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us. Come quickly Lord Jesus.


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2 Responses to Gatherings of 10 or fewer

  1. Carl Vehse says:

    “… we use a practice that is ahistorical and arises from a lot of bad theology (it started in the Baptistic churches)…”

    At the turn of the century there was a Lutheran theological discussion in “The Individual Communion Cup, by the Rev. Joseph D. Krout (The Lutheran Quarterly, Volume 35, 1905, pp. 588-593). Rev. Krout concluded that “the individual cup is not contrary to Scripture, and is in all probability more nearly the correct mode of celebration.”

    In 1918, Christ Lutheran Church in Remsen, Iowa, became the first LCMS church to make use of the individual cups in their communion services. This period was the time when the influenza epidemic was spreading through the U.S. (with over 500,000 deaths). After that the use of individual communion cups increased in American churches.

    In his article, “Argument against the Individual Communion Cup from the Ex Autou” (Concordia Theological Monthly, Vol. 9, No. 7, 1938, pp. 520-522), Prof. John T. Mueller concludes:

    “Whether a congregation wishes to do so or not depends on its own decision; for also with regard to this adiaphoron it may exercise its Christian liberty, provided no offense is given. Personally, for many reasons, we prefer the common Communion cup. However, as we must attack every attempt to say less than Holy Scripture does, so also we must combat every attempt to say more than Holy Scripture does. In other words, it is offensive and unchristian to make that a wrong which Scripture itself does not declare to be wrong. The principle of Christian liberty must never be violated.”

    In the 1944 LCMS Convention Proceedings, Vol. 39, p. 254, the report of Committee 7 regarding Memorial 619a was adopted:

    “Having considered Matt.26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22: 19,20 (chap. 22:17,18 of the Passover); 1 Cor. 10:16, 17, 21; and 1 Cor. 11:23-26, your committee finds nothing stated which would forbid the use of the individual Communion cup.

    “And we hold that the manner and mode of distributing the bread, be it by breaking or by distributing in the form of a host, and the mode and manner of distributing the wine, be it in one or two or more cups, do not belong to the essence of the Sacrament.”

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