The Lord’s Supper: Save it from COVID-19

One of the most disruptive things to me about COVID-19 has been the Lord’s Supper. For more than forty years, I’ve had a structured meditation for the Lord’s Supper. There are reflections while I’m eating the bread and another series of thoughts for the fruit of the vine. In most congregations, there’s been adequate time for this.

We worked with the Central church in McMinnville, Tennessee until June 15, 2021. Their method of distribution was similar to our usual way. We were spaced with alternate rows empty. Those serving passed the trays with individual pieces of bread in communion cups. Members didn’t have to touch the trays. They then served the fruit of the vine. The timing was like what we’d done in the past.

During the year and since we’ve been between congregations, we’ve visited other churches that use the individual packages with the bread and fruit of the vine. In many of those, the one presiding provided very little time for thinking: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).

The most extreme case: a brother led the prayer for the bread. I’d already pulled the seal for that. I started to pull the seal from the fruit of the vine. Before I’d finished that brief task, he was praying before taking the fruit of the vine. Before I had swallowed the fruit of the vine, he was asking the Lord to bless us as we gave of what we’d prospered. There was no time (0 seconds) to contemplate the meaning of what we were doing.

I appreciate the brother’s willingness to serve. Maybe this was the first time. Perhaps he was nervous and wanted to get through quickly. But I wouldn’t want that every Sunday.

Suggestions for presiding at the Lord’s Supper during COVID

  • Have appropriate thoughts to lead us into what we’re doing.
  • Lead prayer for eating the bread. This isn’t time to pray for the sick and afflicted, emergency responders, and to forgive us our sins (which we have already prayed for during Sunday school and opening prayer). Following Jesus’ example, try “giving thanks, blessing” the bread and fruit of the vine. There are many things about the Lord for which we can be thankful: His body, His blood, His willingness to come to earth, His willingness to die, and His resurrection.
  • Lead the congregation in remembering. That’ll take more than two seconds. Consider being seated, thinking, and remembering.
  • Lead the prayer for the fruit of the vine, giving thanks.
  • Return to your seat and reflect on what you’re doing for a reasonable time.

For some people, being quiet in public is more uncomfortable than speaking in public. But I don’t know any other way to do what Jesus told us to do without taking time to think — to remember.

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Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

8 Responses to “The Lord’s Supper: Save it from COVID-19

  • Forest Antemesaris
    1 year ago

    Great thoughts. Thank you, Jerrie.

    1 year ago


  • Donnie Vick
    1 year ago

    While we are back to our pre-covid way of observing communion and taking up the collection, we had similar issues with not enough time. We decided to ask the one presiding to ask the congregation to prepare the bread and pause for a few seconds while everyone unsealed the bread. Then after we prayed and partook, he was to say the same thing for the cup and wait.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      1 year ago

      People don’t think and need training. We need to discuss how to improve all our work and worship.

  • Roger L. Leonard
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for bringing these issues up, Jerrie. It is good for those who preside to say something relevant about the memorial, read Scripture, and pray. But you are so right about the time for all to think and pray personally. We (at least some) have used Acts 20:7 to say “to break bread” means worship in general. But we know what “bread” is being referred to here – it is the unleavened bread of the Lord’s Supper. It occurred to me recently that there was an obvious focus on that memorial on the first day by those in Troaz, and it was much more than simply what day they did it on. This precious part of our worship should never be rushed through. After all, take away what it represents, and we take away the very heart of Christianity! And on an additional note, the men who serve need time to meditate as well. Thanks again!

  • Jerry Stumpf
    1 year ago

    Here, the men pause after asking folks to remove the bread (we use the prepared bread and juice) then they proceed as all other times reflecting approriately on Jesus death. Then after giving people time to get through refl;ecting and asking the audience to prepare the juice for consumption, they reflect again or lead a prayer.

    The collection plate is in the foyer and we have not seen a drastic reduction in contribution. As a small congregation, severl folks moved away and we have had a few deaths.

    ALl in all I am honored to have these men preside at the “table”.

  • I’ve mentioned this to my congregation more than once, but still can’t get those who lead to slow down.

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