We who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
1 Corinthians 10:17b
Dear Friends in Christ,
With COVID restrictions lifted, we re-gathered and trained people to serve as Eucharistic Visitors to take communion to those who “for good cause are prevented” from gathering with us in person, usually those who are homebound or in the hospital. What exactly is this role, and why do we send them out before the service is over?
Eucharistic Visitors are lay people licensed to serve in this specific ministry according to the church’s rites. Because they assist in administering the sacraments, care is taken to be clear about how their role is different from that of priests (or bishops or deacons). There are very few things that only ordained clergy can do in the church, and chief among them has to do with presiding at and administering communion (more on why another day). To maintain clarity about these different roles, Eucharistic Visitors operate in very specific ways. They do not consecrate the bread and wine or lead the Eucharistic Prayers (as priests and bishops do), nor do they take reserved sacrament from the church at other times in the week (as a deacon also could, at the rector’s direction). Rather, they are kind of like those who assist the clergy during the church service, only they metaphorically “extend the altar rail” down the street to where sick or homebound person is.
Because of this reasoning, the celebrant (the priest or bishop who presides at the Eucharist) sends the Eucharistic Visitors out in pairs before the post communion prayer directly to the homebound person. Thus, we extend the service beyond the building’s walls, including the homebound person into the community’s celebration. The Celebrant sends Eucharistic Visitors specifically for this purpose and from the gathered community. The sending of the Visitors is part of that specific service’s distribution of communion (and therefore the sending is done before the post-communion prayer).
This is also a way for the community to be aware of those who are unable to gather and to be mindful of how we are connected to them in Christ through this sacrament. We include their names in the prayers of the people for this reason. And we send Eucharistic Visitors out in pairs, (as Jesus did with his disciples), for mutual support and for good accountability for those who go into people’s homes or private spaces. Eucharistic Visitors are chosen and trained by the parish clergy and licensed by the bishop to serve that particular parish for three years.
If you are unable to gather with us in person for a length of time and would like to receive communion through the ministry of Eucharistic Visitors, please contact me or The Rev. Elisa Harres. If you are interested in serving as a Eucharistic Visitor, please speak with Mother Elisa, who can discern with you this potential call, and arrange training if such a calling is discerned.
We who are many are one body in Christ.
Yours in Christ,