HOLY COMMUNION may now be administered in both kinds under strict conditions, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have told clergy.
In a letter circulated on Tuesday, they write that a working group has been looking at the safety aspects of allowing communicants to receive in both kinds after a form of intinction. Since the start of the pandemic, lay people have received communion only in one kind (the consecrated bread).
The Archbishops’ letter refers to “simultaneous administration”. This, they describe, “is effected by the president taking a piece of bread carefully from the paten or ciborium with the fingers and touching it briefly but carefully to the surface of the wine, allowing a small amount of the wine to suffuse into the bread”.
There is no suggestion that communicants may dip the consecrated bread that they have been administered into the wine.
The working group’s guidance goes into detail about how the elements can safely be handled before, during, and after the Eucharistic Prayer. Offertory processions are not recommended. Only the president is to consume bread that has been broken.
The interim guidance then spells out how communion can be administered:
- The communicant must sanitise hands prior to arriving at the place of communion.
- The communicant stands at the place of communion and holds out hand(s).
- The president takes a piece of bread with their free hand and briefly but carefully touches it to the surface of the wine, allowing some of the wine to suffuse into the bread.
- The president places the bread in the communicant’s hand in silence without touching the hand. In cases where receiving in the hands is not possible, such as illness or disability, [the president’s] hands must be sanitised before and after.
- The president should take care to avoid the possibility of surplus wine dripping from the bread at the time of administration.
- The communicant moves away from the place of communion, removes face covering with free hand, consumes the bread, and replaces the face covering.
- If the president accidentally touches the hand of the communicant or any other surface, both president’s and communicant’s hands must be sanitised again.
The guidance also says that the president should communicate last of all, “and not drink from the chalice until this point”. Any remaining bread or wine should be consumed at this point.
In their letter, the Archbishops make it clear that the working group, under the House of Bishops, is still considering the matter. “However, the outcome of their discussions will take some time. The guidance attached is therefore interim and further information will be sent once the work has been done in the new year.”
They go on: “These matters do touch on deeper principles for us as a Church and we do need both to be sensitive to each other and to work hard to ensure the issues we are debating, and their consequences are understood by all involved. . .
“Different understandings of the eucharist are beautifully and carefully observed and respected in the Church of England. It is a key part of our history and life together. We don’t want this to change.
“Therefore, in the period between now and any further decisions on these matters, we encourage you to act, using the advice and direction given by your Diocesan Bishop, after discussion with the PCC, in accordance with their consciences.”