Week 2: Questions for the Rector

Will we ever return to the “Common Cup”?

With the suspension of many of the COVID protocols, many have asked about receiving wine again from a common cup during the Eucharist. This is the ancient Christian practice of using a chalice (Latin for “mug”) for sharing the blessed wine of Jesus, and it overflows with deep biblical resonance and theological meaning. Just before Jesus’ death, he brought his friends together to impress upon them the fundamental values of God’s kingdom (his last sermon took the form of a shared meal!). These friends would become the transformed One Body of the Church: the mouth and feet and ears of Jesus. One of the great symbols of this new family – this new body – is the common sharing of the Cup of Christ. A moment of self-offering and vulnerability. A moment when the many become one. 

“But what about the science?” some have asked. What is the health safety of many people drinking from one cup?

  • There is wide consensus among medical and public-health professionals that when the Common Cup is shared it is much safer not to allow “intinction” (dipping the wafer into the chalice).
  • In a large literature review on Eucharistic practices, recently published by NIH in 2020, the authors note that in the long history of communities sharing the Common Cup – a worldwide practice – “the transmission of any infectious disease has never been documented.” Of all the instances of viral outbreaks in communities, including SARS and COVID-19, none has been traced back to the sharing of the Common Cup. Neither have researchers ever found enough material in the Chalice (at the end of the service) to allow for infectious transmission.
  • There is widespread consensus that “intinction” may carry risks not present in the sharing of a cup, due to the involvement of so many different hands. Our Bishops’ direction is that people should not both drink and intinct from the same cup. If intinction is permitted, there should be a separate, shallow cup for intinction only. (Many thanks to The Reverend Dr. Joshua Daniel, St. Columba’s WDC for his research here).

In light of these findings and the Bishops’ direction,

  • Beginning September 11, All Saints’ will reintroduce the Common Cup.
  • Following the Bishops’ direction, for those desiring “intinction,” a separate intinction chalice will be offered.
  • The use of small cups will be discontinued.
  • Every member of the altar party will continue to sanitize their hands before distributing bread or wine.
  • Those who distribute the wine will “wipe and turn” the chalice after each sip (there is evidence that this further reduces trace amounts of “germs”).
  • We worship a Living God. Thus, the form of our worship must always remain open to change. The Anglican Church has long been defined by the Latin phrase: via media (literally, the middle road). 

As a reminder, the Church has long held that if you take only one form of Communion, either the bread or the wine, or even if you desire to receive communion but are not able, you are fully communed.