A return to offering the chalice (or 'common cup') at Holy Communion - 31 July 2022
What's the update?
In March 2022, in keeping with the Church of England’s national guidance, Bishop Christopher requested that all churches in Southwark Diocese began the process of returning to the usual Anglican practice of offering the chalice at Holy Communion. At St Alfege, following agreement by the PCC (Church Council), we will return to our pre-pandemic practice of offering communion in both kinds (consecrated wafers and wine) from the altar rail, from Sunday 31st July.
Why are we doing this and why is it so important to Anglicans?
Shared worship practices help define who we are as a Church. By returning to our familiar way of offering communion, the worshipping community at St Alfege walks alongside the Church of England as a whole. We will also be returning to historical Anglican practice. Offering the chalice of consecrated wine to lay people, and not just priests, has been an important part of Anglican worship since the Reformation in the 16th century. Christ offered his disciples a common cup, and this common cup represents our shared life together: not only the life we share as a church family at St Alfege, but also our shared life as one universal church, across the world, and over two millennia of Christian worship.
What does science say about sharing a common cup?
The studies on bacterial transmission via the communion cup, and associated literature reviews, suggest that the theoretical risk of transmitting infectious disease through the communion cup is so small as to be undetectable. Sharing the common cup can be made sufficiently safe for most people through the hygiene measures that were in place for presiding priests, servers and the congregation even before the pandemic: for example, the proper use of purificators (small linen cloths used to wipe the rim of the cup) and hand sanitiser. Similarly, as a common-sense precaution, anyone who thinks that they might be infectiously unwell themselves (for example, with a cold or cough) should refrain from drinking from the common cup.
We will not be permitting the practice of intinction (communicants dipping the wafer in the chalice) because our serving team cannot reliably ensure that no one’s fingers will inadvertently contaminate the wine.
What if I decide to receive only the wafer at communion?
The chalice will be offered on an opt-in basis, and all communicants are welcome to decline it (by bowing their heads at the altar rail). Christ’s teaching at the Last Supper is that normal Christian practice should offer both bread and wine to those gathered for worship. However, the Church affirms the doctrine of 'concomitance'; this means that anyone can make a full communion by receiving in one kind only. This is because Christ’s nature is indivisible, and he is therefore both fully present in the bread and fully present in the wine.
We are all capable of making our own decision about whether or not to receive from the common cup. (For many of us, this could change from time to time, depending on personal circumstances.) Although, on an individual level, perhaps not everyone will share in the chalice, we nevertheless continue to be One Body, participating together in the shared ritual instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Please speak to Revd Simon, Revd Tati or a PCC member if you have any questions.
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