The National Church have issued guidance on opening for services, private prayer and live-streaming in view of the restrictions in England. We have carefully worked through this guidance and have prepared policies and risk assessments to ensure that we can open safely with consideration for those who want to visit our buildings and those that look after our churches.
The churches will also be open for private prayer 10am – 2pm weekly as follows:
Wednesdays – every day
St John’s, Itchen Abbas – every day
St Swithun’s, Martyr Worthy – every day
St Mary’s, Avington – every day
Sometimes these opening times may need to change so please check the Church online diary.
All our services will be online on zoom broadcast either from Church or from home. Details for logging on to our services will be posted on the website and all services will also be recorded and posted. If you haven’t already done so please follow this website by inserting your email in the field at the bottom right of our home page.
Other Covid-19 Posts
Holy Communion on line – a theological analysis
A very useful explanation by David Hilborn on the theological background to the idea of on line communion:David Hilborn is the principal of Moorlands College. He was previously Principal of St John’s College, Nottingham and Assistant Dean of St Mellitus College, in whose founding he played a significant part.
Understandably in the current Covid-19 crisis, there’s been a lot of discussion of whether, and if so how, the Lord’s Supper could be celebrated in the context of ‘online church’. One person I’ve engaged with elsewhere suggested four possible options. 1 – Suspend it completely, reject all attempts at online celebration on the grounds that they’re inauthentic, and see the privation as something that will help us appreciate it all the more when it resumes. 2 – Stream the President’s celebration of it, and encourage others who watch that to treat it as a spur to prayer and reflection, but with no consumption of bread and wine at their end. 3 – Stream a President’s celebration, but then later distribute the elements he or she consecrates by Extension to those who have watched. And 4: Stream a President’s celebration and allow all watching to partake of their own bread and wine together wherever they are, when the Words of Distribution are said.
My response to these possibilities follows. It’s from an Anglican Evangelical perspective , but I offer it here because I think most of it reads across to other Evangelical perspectives, too: If there’s one aspect of Anglican doctrine and practice that allows significant leeway within certain basic parameters it’s the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion/Eucharist. Indeed, even in Common Worship’s allowing those three descriptors there’s a clear historic nod to this diversity – and that’s even before one considers the many higher church Anglican folk who complicate things further by calling it ‘Mass’. As it stands, Anglican theology here is a multi-layered hybrid of Lutheran consubstatiation, Calvinist receptionism and Zwinglian memorialialism, while certain rubrics and liturgical phraseologies bear awkward vestiges for Anglican Evangelicals of Roman instrumentalism – vestiges enthusiastically promoted and re-worked, of course, by the Oxford Movement. Arguments about the presence of Christ in the sacramental celebration – and more specifically with, in and under the elements themselves (or not!) – have been particularly varied through Anglican history. So, unequivocal assertions about what is ‘Eucharistically proper’ in the current extreme, unprecedented context should be treated with a degree of circumspection.
If (as I would) we foreground the 1552 injunction ‘Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving’, it might be possible to conceive of Option 4 as what ecumenical theologians call a ‘bearable anomaly’ in the present crisis. Sure, there IS something cardinal and foundational about a single loaf being broken and distributed in a single place for a gathered physical congregation – but that’s just not possible right now, and in any case the one-many/many-one dynamic is hardly very well borne out by the coin-sized pre-packed, pre-separated wafers served in many CofE parishes.
With respect to consecration, even pretty sacerdotal construals of Anglican presbyteral ministry would have to concede that consecration is the work of the Holy Spirit rather than of the President – a Spirit that, after all, ‘blows where it wills’. Can this Holy Spirit of God – trans-local and indeed omnipresent as it is – make multiple loaves in multiple places simultaneously the body of Christ for those who together and simultaneously partake from those loaves in ‘faith with thanksgiving’? Surely. Can that same divine Spirit bind disparate folk thus celebrating in several places into a unified body – one congregation? Surely. Is our unity in the body much more than spatial, even if importantly spatial this side of glory? Surely – read Hebrews 12:1ff and think of the fact that every act of true Christian worship is worship with a great cloud of witnesses – worship with the Communion of Saints, the worship of the Church Militant co-joined with the Church Triumphant. Is ‘remembering that Christ died for us, and feeding on him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving’ – even in such an exceptional, bearably anomalous way – preferable to conscious months-long non-celebration on the dubious theological grounds that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’? I would think so.
Hence, putting these core biblical and theological principles together, I would tentatively lean more towards Option 4 than Option 1 (a misapplication of a more general principle of self-denial), Option 2 (docetic and hyper-clerical), or Option 3 (elements by extension as potentially contaminative).
Yes, there are dangers of over-domestication and atomisation in 4, but the Passover roots of the Lord’s Supper are significantly domestic, plural and dispersed – as much based in distinct homes, around the dinner table, as in the more formal public ceremonies of the tabernacle or temple. Come to think of it, the Last Supper itself was in a domestic context – an upper room. Granted, Option 4 might potentially encourage folk to think they could ‘give up meeting together’ with others in public assemblies (cf. Heb. 10:23-25) – but the NT church does appear to have included house fellowships (like Lydia’s) as well as larger communal gatherings (1 Cor. 11:18). Yes, consumption would crucially need to be synchronous, lest oneness in time be compromised along with oneness in space. But still, of all the options offered here, Option 4 seems Scripturally and theologically the least worst – and just about tenable, if only for this extraordinary season.
Of course, for Anglican clergy, any actual practice of Option 4 would need to be discussed with their Bishop, who would probably consult his or her diocesan liturgical advisers, and/or the national Liturgical Commission. Yet as an exceptional variation under what the Canons call ‘reverend and seemly’ worship practice, I think it could be deemed sufficiently coherent and acceptable in the current pandemic. For non-Anglicans less bound by Canons and centralised decrees, I hope these thoughts might be more generally helpful.
Despite this helpful analysis, it should be pointed out that the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England takes another view. They observe the following:
Recognising that they do so in real but separated company with those for whom they have spiritual care, some bishops and priests may choose to stream celebrations of Holy Communion. If so, those participating remotely should be encouraged to use the Act of Spiritual Communion on the Church of England website: https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/Guidance%20on%20Spiritual%20Communion%20and%20Coronavirus.pdf. As the introduction to that liturgical material explains:
The Book of Common Prayer instructs us that if we offer ourselves in penitence and faith, giving thanks for the redemption won by Christ crucified, we may truly ‘eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ’, although we cannot receive the sacrament physically in ourselves. Making a Spiritual Communion is particularly fitting for those who cannot receive the sacrament at the great feasts of the Church, and it fulfils the duty of receiving Holy Communion ‘regularly, and especially at the festivals of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun or Pentecost’ (Canon B 15).
Participants in a streamed service of Holy Communion should not be encouraged to place bread and wine before their screens. Joining together to share in the one bread and the one cup as those physically present to one another is integral to the service of Holy Communion; this is not possible under the current restrictions, and it is not helpful to suggest otherwise. Any idea of the ‘remote consecration’ of the bread and wine should be avoided.
Bishops should assure priests that their homes are proper places for the celebration of Holy Communion, and remind them that the same reverence should be accorded to the sacrament in the home as in church. In particular, if the sacrament is reserved in a priest’s home for ministry to the sick, it should be stored in a ‘seemly and reverent’ manner in a suitable and secure place.