Since the days of the early church, lay people have assisted the clergy in caring for the sick and the disabled members of the community of faith by bearing the sacrament of the Eucharist to those not able to attend the service. Over the years, the form of this ministry has waxed and waned depending upon the context of the time, supply of clergy and the leadership of the Church. The Episcopal Church has authorized this ministry as licensed by the Bishop of the diocese under the supervision of the leadership of the parish. By definition, A Eucharistic Visitor is a lay person authorized to take the Consecrated Elements in a timely manner following a Celebration of Holy Eucharist to members of the congregation who, by reason of illness or infirmity, are unable to be present at the Celebration.
During the time this pandemic, the shared sacramental life of the congregations has been stressed by the inability to physically gather and share in the breaking of the bread. Because of the limitations of testing, it is difficult to know who is infected with the virus and able to spread COVID-19. While worship services have been available online and some congregations have been able to regather, the time of this pandemic has continued beyond what anyone could have anticipated. As cases continue to climb, a definite end date remains elusive.
The Episcopal Church in Delaware and St. Peter’s Church, Lewes in particular have a significant percentage of older adult (65+), many of whom also have additional significant health conditions. While they are, for the most part, not going out or socializing in public, they have grouped themselves into small social groups, or pods, for companionship. Young families have done the same, with two or more families agreeing to isolate and only socialize within a limited circle of members. In both these instances, they have agreed not to gather if they are not feeling well or have been exposed to others who are COVID positive within the last two weeks.
The idea behind POD church is to use these existing groups as a means of dispensing the sacrament. Since the virus limits or prevents us from gathering in large groups, these pods could gather on Sunday morning to share communion. They could watch the liturgy live from St. Peter’s as it is webcasted on Facebook and YouTube, and, at the appropriate time, a Lay Eucharistic Visitor* would open a pyx and share the host. Following the service, they could discuss the Lectionary readings and the Sermon. They would pick up the pyx the Friday before the service and return them to Church to be cleansed on Monday after the service.
In order to do this, LEVs need to be trained by the Rector and licensed by the Bishop. They would meet all of the qualifications as stipulated by the canons. The Deacon (Chris Miller-Marcin) will, as preferred by the canons, oversee the distribution and recollection of the pyx bags. Each small bag will contain a pyx with enough consecrated hosts for the pod, a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a corporal. The LEVs will be trained in how to respectfully transport and reserve the sacrament prior to the service. They will only distribute the sacrament while watching the Sunday service live. The license would be limited for this specific ministry and for a limited time (six months).
Pods could range in size from 2 to 10 people. They would need to commit to each other and mutually agree to only gather if they are feeling healthy, without any symptoms of COVID, no temperature above 99.9 degrees F, not be exposed to anyone with COVID in the last two weeks and actively minimizing their physical exposure to others. The pod would need to select a place to gather with access to watching the service while maintaining appropriate social distancing. They would also agree to wear masks except when consuming the sacrament, (unless all of the members of a pod live together).
This approach minimizes the risk of exposure, fits within the liturgical practices and canons of the Episcopal Church and meets the needs for those longing for communion but concerned about physically attending a church service. It harkens back to our early beginnings as house churches and offers a way forward for the challenges of this time.
HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE: check all that apply and return to firstname.lastname@example.org
_____I would like to be in a POD.
_____I am in a POD and we would like to participate. POD members:
_____I would like to have a license to be a Lay Eucharistic Visitor.
_____I have a web enabled TV and sufficient space to host a POD.
*A Lay Eucharistic Visitor is a lay person authorized to take the Consecrated Elements in a timely manner following a Celebration of Holy Eucharist to members of the congregation who, by reason of illness or infirmity, were unable to be present at the Celebration. A Eucharistic Visitor should normally act under the direction of a Deacon, if any, or otherwise, the Member of the Clergy or other leader exercising oversight of the congregation or other community of faith.