>I was dismayed but not surprised when I was recently made aware of this website that seeks to make Holy Communion available on the web. Sadly, the site bills itself as “A United Methodist Celebration of Holy Communion on the Web.” I guess I expect this kind of thing from some quarters of Christianity, but to see “United Methodist” in the web header … well … sigh …
A friend and fellow blogger, Andrew Thompson has already written an article in the UM Reporter that addresses the site’s content and its problems. The website itself states that it is devoted to making “Holy Communion available in the most inclusive way possible.” Apparently, all that is needed to receive the sacrament in one’s home, office, or local Wi–Fi hot spot is a computer, an Internet connection, and some elements of your choice placed between you and the screen. I guess when Jesus said: “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” he was including future reference to virtual selves and virtual celebrants with prerecorded consecrations, digitally saved and delivered on demand and at will. Lisa Miller of a recent Newsweek article called it “Click in Remembrance of Me.”
As I read about this, I was reminded of the phrase hocus pocus, a popular phrase for magicians, that some etymologists attribute to a perversion of the phrase in the Latin Mass: “Hoc est corpus meum” or “This is my body.” It is a line in the Eucharistic prayer for Catholics that in some places was accompanied with the ringing of a bell, signaling the moment when the bread and cup was transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ (otherwise known as the doctrine of Real Presence or Transubstantiation). I personally have little problem with this Catholic doctrine, properly understood, but I do find it more than humorous that Protestants, and now United Methodists in particular, are engaging in the very thing generations of previous Protestants historically “protested” against – namely, a magical view of the Eucharist. No gathered community of faith is necessary in carnis (in flesh, except perhaps the official “clicker”); no celebrant is necessary in carnis (just a celebrant’s voice in digitale). This is truly Holy Communion Harry Potter style. I wonder if the clicker so chooses, can one use a mobile laptop and hold the screen in front of the refrigerator and freezer for part of the service so all future meals are equally consecrated?
As we approach the high, holy season of Advent and Christmas, I for one am deeply grateful for a God who saw fit to come in carnis (in flesh). Should not those ordained to represent Christ in the ministry of Word and Sacrament see fit to do the same?
Since first posting this, Andrew has added another blog post on the subject here. Also, in response to Tom (in comments) and others, I would agree that this is NOT the official position of the United Methodist Church, which is precisely why some of us are wanting to call attention to this grave distortion of our sacramental teaching and practice.
To learn more about what United Methodists do believe, one can read our official teaching document of the church “This Holy Mystery.” This portion of the document, in particular, speaks about the limited extension of the Table in cases where persons are sick, home bound, or otherwise physically prevented from being present in corporate worship. In such instances, people can and should receive the sacrament through pastoral visitation or lay Eucharistic leaders.