Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Today in the Mission Yearbook

Office of Theology and Worship offers supplemental guidance for online communion


Included are guidelines for holding online services

July 1, 2020

The Office of Theology & Worship is offering Presbyterians supplemental guidance for online communion. (Photo illustration by Tammy Warren)

Since the Office of the General Assembly issued an advisory opinion from the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), saying that churches can hold online or virtual communion during an emergency/pandemic, the church’s Office of Theology and Worship released the statement “Celebrating the Sacraments in a Time of Emergency/Pandemic.”

Acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic “disrupted the basic patterns of life of the body of Christ” and “presented challenges not anticipated in our confessions or polity,” the statement affirms “that the resources or our tradition can help us make faithful decisions in light of the rapidly changing events and new contexts for ministry.”

For congregations seeking to “discern faithful forms of worship and service,” the statement identifies certain critical theological considerations that are important to keep in mind. It also upholds the variety of ways Presbyterian congregations and other denominational partners have sought to navigate the current challenges of our time.

Examples include:

  • Exploring forms of service inspired by sacramental worship, such as organizing ministries of feeding as an outgrowth of our eucharistic formation
  • Making use of the church’s provisions for baptism apart from public worship
  • Experimenting with online celebrations of the sacraments, which the advisory opinion addresses.

The coordinator for the Office of Theology and Worship, the Rev. Dr. Barry Ensign-George, said the statement is meant as a supplement to the advisory opinion and is designed to help congregations remember and reflect on the range of faithful ways of worshiping during this season of pandemic.

“The permission to observe online communion does not require doing so,” he said.

Because pastoral leaders will reach different conclusions about what is right for the congregation(s) they serve, Ensign-George said that this season calls for Presbyterians “to exercise forbearance toward one another as pastoral leaders discern the leading of the Holy Spirit as they shape worship.”

Click here to review the full “Advisory Opinion on Communion in an Emergency/Pandemic” from the Office of General Assembly.

 Paul Seebeck, Communications Strategist, Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus:  Online Communion

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Suzi Gwinn, Presbyterian Investment & Loan Program
Debbie Haag, Presbyterian Foundation

Let us pray:

Gracious God, we ask that you would give members and leaders creativity and patience as they move expectantly into the new way in the wilderness you are creating for them. Amen.