Thinking Anglicans

Individual cups at Holy Communion

Updated Thursday afternoon

Are individual cups at Holy Communion legal in the Church of England?

Mrs Mary Durlacher asked a question about this at the online meeting of General Synod members in July and was told that the answer is “no”.

Mrs Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q68 Will the House of Bishops reconsider the prohibition of use of small individual cups as a valid ‘common sense’ pro tem way of sharing the Communion wine while current constraints remain?
The Bishop of London to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops:
A The Legal Advisory Commission has stated “it is contrary to law for individual cups to be used for each communicant” and that “the doctrine of necessity cannot be appealed to in order to justify the use of individual cups even in circumstances where there is a fear of contagion from the use of a common cup. … the Sacrament Act 1547 makes provision for cases where a necessity not to deliver a common cup arises: in such a case the normal requirement that the sacrament be delivered in both kinds is disapplied by statute. Even if a shared cup cannot be used for medical reasons, the use of individual cups remains contrary to law … . In such cases reception should be in one kind only.” The House cannot authorise or encourage a practice which would be contrary to law.

The reply refers to this Legal Advisory Commission paper and to the Sacrament Act 1547. Also relevant is this Church of England advice Holy Communion and the distribution of the elements issued on 1 in mid-July 2020 after the Synod meeting.

Mrs Durlacher subsequently instructed a group of six barristers to prepare a legal opinion. They disagreed with the Bishop’s reply and concluded that there was nothing in law to prevent the use of individual cups at  the administration of Holy Communion. Their opinion is here: The legality of the use of individual cups for communion wine.

Ian Paul has published a number of relevant articles on his Psephizo blog.

Andrew Goddard Can we receive both bread and wine during the pandemic?
Andrew AtherstonReceiving Communion in individual cups: round two
Ian Paul Did Jesus use multiple cups at the Last Supper?

This has now been picked up by the secular and church press.

The Telegraph Row over Communion wine as lawyers challenge CoE ruling it is against Covid guidelines
Church Times Barristers challenge Bishops’ legal advice against individual communion cups

It has been pointed out (by Matt C on Twitter) that, even if legal, “Individual communion cups are not covered by either List A or List B of the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules” (and so their introduction would require a faculty).

Update

I have corrected the date of issue of the Holy Communion and the distribution of the elements paper above. The paper issued on 1 July was this COVID-19-Advice-on-the-Administration-of-Holy-Communion-v3-1.7.2020, although that has been subsequently updated. The current version is version 5.1.

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Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
24 days ago

And what if the wine were consecrated in a single vessel and then poured into small disposable cups for distribution? That is considered but perhaps should be marked out for separate discussion.

Last edited 24 days ago by Bernard Silverman
Simon Reynolds
Simon Reynolds
23 days ago

This is what I’ve recently seen happening at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. A single flagon of wine is consecrated during the Eucharistic Prayer, those communicants who wish to receive in both kinds approach the deacon with an empty glass, it is filled for the communicant to drink, and then replaced on a designated table with a corporal. Christ Church has a more Catholic liturgical ethos to much of the rest of the Church of Ireland (it’s Dean is a former Roman Catholic priest, a high Mass set is worn for the principal Sunday Eucharist, and incense used at high… Read more »

R White
R White
23 days ago
Reply to  Simon Reynolds

The fact the Dean is a former RC hardly seems to support the notion Christ Church has a Catholic ethos. The Dean, I suppose, must have had some strong reason to convert to C of I in the first place.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
22 days ago
Reply to  R White

It does happen. At Winchester Cathedral we had a Residentiary Canon, Amand de Mendieta, who was Belgian and both priest and a former Benedictine monk. A book by him discussing Anglicanism and Catholicism was titled “Rome and Canterbury”. He was a noted theologian, and that was his role in the Winchester Chapter. With a very pronounced accent, he would read one of the lessons, but was actually excused from preaching.

Stanley Monkhouse
22 days ago
Reply to  R White

As a former C of I layman of the dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough and Rector in the diocese of Leighlin, I think it’s safe to say that the catholic bling and practices introduced by the present Dean of Christ Church Dublin by no means meet the approval of all, and that his successor is unlikely to continue in the same vein. The canons (https://www.ireland.anglican.org/our-faith/the-canons) are quite clear: “12. Ecclesiastical apparel. (2) Every member of the clergy at all times when ministering publicly the regular services of the Church in a church building (a) may wear a cassock, (b) shall wear a plain… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Stanley Monkhouse
peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
23 days ago
Reply to  Simon Reynolds

Well, …
Wastewater (such as drained by dishwashers) goes to a water treatment plant, the solids are removed and then sent to a landfill or sometimes heat-treated and then used as fertilizer, so either pathway would go in the earth.

So it seems to me that, even if the glasses were sent straight to the dishwasher, the unused contents would eventually end up in the earth.

Stanley Monkhouse
22 days ago

The baptism of Christ is not so much about what the water did for Christ, as whet Christ did for the water: Christ sanctified the waters of the earth. All water is sanctified. No problem for washings up.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
23 days ago
Reply to  Simon Reynolds

I visited Christ Church about twenty years ago and was struck at the time by the welcome leaflet saying that the Canons of Christ Church had “loyally” submitted to Henry VIII, which seemed to me even then to be almost an apology for not having remained true to the RC Church.

In an entirely different, but somewhat surprising, context, one can encounter a Latin Mass in the Presbyterian setting of St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
22 days ago
Reply to  Simon Reynolds

This is not meant facetiously, so, readers please don’t take it as such. If the issue is about returning the small amount left to earth, then a possibility is to use biodegradable small cups (just to receive–pour into them in plain sight after consecration, or even use a pipette from a chalice) and then to bury them. (Or perhaps burn?)

Father Ron Smith
22 days ago
Reply to  Simon Reynolds

oh, dearie, dearie me!

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
24 days ago

I wouldn’t want to pick a fight with Mrs Durlacher if she can afford six barristers.

M Evans
M Evans
24 days ago

wonderful

David Lamming
David Lamming
20 days ago

See my comment below in response to ‘Cassandra’. The barristers (three of whom are members of General Synod) wrote their Opinion pro bono.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
24 days ago

It would not require a faculty to consecrate wine in a flagon or other common vessel and to distribute it by pouring it into cups/glasses people had brought themselves. The practical means of distributing the wine does not seem to be specified in detail in canons or rubrics [after all spoons are sometimes used with the sick, and are provided with some communion sets]. And people bringing their own vessels solves any cross-contamination problems – only they touch their own vessel. And how did the wine at Cana get shared? [Quite apart from the arguments about practical arrangements at the… Read more »

David Lamming
David Lamming
24 days ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

As Archbishop Justin Welby said in a video message on Youtube back in April: “We use the wonders of technology to be in touch with each other, but we recover the sense that Jesus says: ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them’. And they don’t even actually have to be physically gathered. Virtually gathered does very well indeed. Jesus is quite up to date on all this stuff.” If “virtually gathered does very well indeed”, why can we not envisage the communion elements being virtually consecrated and mutually shared? Jesus would seem more… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
23 days ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

I have noticed in TEC that it is usual to have only one chalice plus a flagon on the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer with any other chalices put on the altar subsequent to the Eucharistic Prayer.

Father Ron Smith
22 days ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

The wine at Cana wes never represented as an occasion of Eucharist! I don’t see the connection with the theology of the Common Cup.

Kate
Kate
24 days ago

In cathedrals and other large churches multiple cups are already (at least sometimes) used on logistic grounds.

My guess is that the bishops don’t like individual cups because it is a step on the road to a full virtual Communion.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
24 days ago
Reply to  Kate

They’re trying to turn us into Methodists! We’ll be forced to drink consecrated Ribena next.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
24 days ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

I attended a Methodist service once with a friend. As they passed around the cups of grape juice to the faithful, I thought about Jesus of Nazareth, those amphorae of water at Cana, … and I thought “no way.”

Kate
Kate
23 days ago

Peter, I totally agree about the grape juice but I feel exactly the same about the ridiculous wafers almost all CofE churches use.

I think an integral part of the Eucharist is that what is shared is a) giving good nourishment and b) the best the host can offer. Surely that’s the whole point – Jesus gave everything and we don’t recognise the scale of his dedication by sharing a dribble of grape juice and an awful, dry, meagre wafer. The Communion was surely intended to be part of a shared feast.

Last edited 23 days ago by Kate
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
23 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Isn’t the relevance and general use of the wafer that it is unleavened bread. The Easter Anthems, quoting 1 Corinthians, remind us:

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; ⁠therefore let us keep the feast, Not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, ⁠but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.”

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
23 days ago
Reply to  Kate

I agree. The original Last Supper was after a shared meal, if it was a Passover seder as most theologians believe. In the 1980s, I often joined a group of Roman Catholic nuns for a weekday Mass celebrated by a local priest (they helped me out when I was homeless, in the best tradition of Matthew 25:35 – 40), and the nuns would bake a small rounded “cake” of unleavened bread. Not matzoh, not those wafers, but a thick, dense chewy bread. And I couldn’t help but think it made the Eucharist closer to the hurried baking of women at… Read more »

Will Richards
Will Richards
19 days ago

A Passover Seder? Not according to the Johanine timetable. And, of course, Pesach was a Temple liturgy at the time of Jesus, not a domestic celebration. This is why well-meaning (but theologically uninformed) clergy who replace the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday with a Seder not only risk causing misunderstanding and offence to present-day Jewry; they also demonstrate a lack of historicity and a rather myopic understanding of how the Eucharist developed in the early Christian era, especially as Christianity parted company with Judaism. John Baldovin’s work (echoing the diary of Egeria) stresses how marginal was the recalling of the Last… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
24 days ago
Reply to  Kate

You are probably right about the bishops, but, I’d argue that the Eucharist is already virtual. Except for a confused 11-year-old non-Christian boy (as I was 56 years ago) who saw a Mass for the first time, does anyone believe the consecrated wine and bread-like substance (communion wafers) are really the literal flesh and blood of Jesus of Nazareth? No. Regardless of what terminology believers use (consubstantiation, Real Presence, transubstantiation, etc.), on some level the transformation is considered symbolic or spiritual by believers. Or virtual. However, the Bishops probably don’t like the idea of Brits in from of their PCs… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
24 days ago

I wouldn’t be so hasty to dismiss the piety of contemporary churchgoers nor, I might add, of clergy. While I do not doubt a ‘symbolic’ understanding of the Eucharistic elements predominates, a ‘literal’ (slippery term that it is) understanding of the Presence is very much alive and well in the Church of England. This young priest holds such, at least.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
23 days ago

” I do not doubt a “symbolic” understanding …predominates” I wonder why other Churches bother with us, having invested considerable ecumenical effort into coming to a convergence on the eucharist ( ARCIC, Lutheran, Orthodox and Reformed) What do we mean by symbolic? Are we talking about a Zwinglian real absence?, presumably not the patristic understanding of Sign ( something present not absent). Classical Anglican formularies rule out a purely symbolic in the modern sense understanding of the eucharistic elements.”Sacraments are not only badges or tokens but rather certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace ” Article XXV. See also… Read more »

primroseleague
primroseleague
23 days ago

“does anyone believe….? No”

er, I do… I mean it’s basic Catholic doctrine (Roman and some Anglo), I’m not sure it should be a massive surprise that people believe it just because you don’t?

Kate
Kate
22 days ago
Reply to  primroseleague

Ditto.

Stanley Monkhouse
24 days ago

Who cares?

David Lamming
David Lamming
24 days ago

I attempted to ask the following supplementary question during the ‘Zoom’ meeting of General Synod on 11 July, but it was blocked by the chairman on the basis that I was seeking an opinion on a question of law, contrary to Standing Order 113(4)((b) — somewhat ironic since the written answer to Mary Durlacher’s question cited an opinion by the Legal Advisory Commission!: “If compliance with ecclesiastical law requires the use of a common cup, so that the use of individual cups is contrary to law, what is the legal basis for the use of several chalices at different communion… Read more »

Kate
Kate
24 days ago

I find this so difficult. People on all sides of the argument are doing their sincere best to be faithful to our Saviour’s instructions, but I can’t help thinking that He wouldn’t want us to be distracted from the why by debates on the how.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
23 days ago
Reply to  Kate

The role of the priest is to make known the presence of Christ – discuss

Kate
Kate
22 days ago
Reply to  Mark Bennet

The transformation of the bread and wine cannot (or more strictly, does not) spontaneously occur so the president does more than announce the presence of Christ.

Richard
Richard
21 days ago
Reply to  Kate

How did you get from “make known” to “spontaneously…. announce”?

David Keen
David Keen
24 days ago

We should outlaw individual wafers as well then. Either a shared loaf or nothing.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
24 days ago
Reply to  David Keen

Wont happen David. People will probably continue to do what they like. No doubt cake stands and little cups will appear in some places. After all in today’s C of E you can experience everything from the roman rite to a chap in chinos with a eucharistic prayer reduced to the dominical words. Its our wonderful Anglican “comprehensiveness”.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
23 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Compare the various scenarios canvassed on this thread with the video included in Ian Paul’s article above of the Jewish family and guests observing the Passover Sader. Well-dressed, respect for the occasion and the host, a combination of dignity, friendly fellowship and sharing. They are using the very best tableware linen, china and glasses – nothing but the finest. This is how a traditional C of E Communion was and always should be. If, and only if, learned Counsel are correct about individual cups, for those who want them during Covid-19 restrictions Wippells can provide glass ones for £4. Let’s… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
23 days ago

A misspelling. Sorry, Seder not Sader.

Father David
24 days ago

Six Barristers disagreeing
FIVE GOLD RINGS

Robert Warren
Robert Warren
24 days ago

Pity those churches in the Anglican Communion whose liturgical practices are not enshrined in the law of the land and who, therefore, are forced to speak about matters without hiding behind their powdered wigs.

Canon Dr Michael Blyth
Canon Dr Michael Blyth
23 days ago

Going to court over all this doesn’t seem a very New Testament approach; and how much is it all going to cost? Yet again the eucharist seems to be getting politicised – something which certainly ‘took off’ during discussions during lockdown. When the liturgy – or even the ‘non-liturgy’ – becomes an exercise in control rather than an expression of worship and reverence then questions need to be asked about how the institutional church has come to so pervert its original significance. This should be of the deepest theological concern to anyone engaged in mission and ministry; but our current… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
23 days ago

In Chesterfield, one of my three churches was part of an Anglican/Methodist LEP. For Sunday holy communion when I was rostered I consecrated both chalice and tray of individual shot glasses of grape juice for the Methodists. It never occurred to me to ask anybody’s permission, and if it had I wouldn’t have – I’m not going to allow a bishop (or a Chair of District) sat in an office 20 miles away to tell me what I can and cannot do in the local situation. The only difficulty came with the ablutions. I just couldn’t leave the unconsumed juice… Read more »

John Wallace
John Wallace
23 days ago

I come back to the word ‘intentionality’. I’m sure, whatever our view of the Sacrament, the form is less important than what we are, under the grace of God, doing, which we do ‘in remembrance of Him.’ Queen Elizabeth’s words are apposite and as I see it all other views fall into insignificance: Twas God the Word that spake it, He took the Bread and brake it: And what that Word did make it, That I believe and take it. So let us keep the feast ‘until the coming of the Kingdom’ – however we partake of the chalice –… Read more »

Kate
Kate
23 days ago

It is a great shame you are retired (I think): the Church of England could do with more of your ilk, Stanley

Stanley Monkhouse
22 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Thank you Kate. Yes, retired with PTO though unused at present and likely to remain so since my eyesight is such that I’d need to be collected and brought back. I can’t see (sorry) me renewing PTO when my safeguarding certs have expired given the hoops that I’d have to jump through. Not worth the bother – but that’s a whole other issue, as is the eyesight thing. Dealing with Methodists (I’m a cradle Methodist) in the LEP was an absolute delight. They are so efficient. They don’t wait for the “vicar” to tell them what to do, they just… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
22 days ago

The vicar of a nearby village to where I grew up lost his sight as he aged. All was fine as he had memorised the BCP and had no intention of using anything else. The only mishap occurred when, lacking the visual prompts that might have reminded him, he stood up to begin a service and confused the funeral liturgy with that for the solemnisation of marriage.

Stanley Monkhouse
22 days ago
Reply to  Jo B

Well, they’re much the same thing, one way and another.

R White
R White
21 days ago
Reply to  Jo B

I once knew a vicar the complete opposite. The Lord’s Prayer iin his altar book was half on one page and half on the next and he invariably paused in the middle to turn the page.

Charles Clapham
23 days ago

I’m not a canon lawyer, but having read both the Legal Advisory Commission paper, and the response from Mrs Durlacher’s barristers, I think the latter are more persuasive. All the Legal Advisory Commission paper seems to be able to establish is that the use of individual cups was not envisaged in the BCP, and is not the norm. But that doesn’t mean they are therefore ‘illegal’ – which is a strong word with a high threshold of proof. Of course I understand the symbolism of using one cup, but if we have opened the door to individual wafers (rather than… Read more »

Last edited 23 days ago by Charles Clapham
Cassandra
Cassandra
23 days ago

Just wondering, does Mary Durlacher feel so strongly about this that she’s paid for 6 barristers, or is she the visible face of some well-resourced group?

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
22 days ago
Reply to  Cassandra

Some google research is suggestive Cassandra

David Lamming
David Lamming
20 days ago
Reply to  Cassandra

Yet another barbed comment on TA by a person, who by using a pseudonym, remains anonymous. For the record, the six barristers, three of whom are members of the General Synod, provided their Opinion pro bono. Had I not now been retired, I, too, would have been one of the signatories.

Jeremy
Jeremy
23 days ago

Doesn’t Ian Paul give us the crucial point?
This will of course mean letting go of concerns about regulation and control, and in particular of the exact ritual forms and the question of presidency — who is authorised to preside over the proceedings.“
Of course hierarchical churches cannot abide individual cups. They are a slippery slope to celebrating the Eucharist at home, without any priest at all.
Which is, after all, the Jewish practice for Passover meals. No priest required!

Charles Read
23 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy

individual cups are not or need not be the start of such a slope. It has not led to such individual practices in e.g. Methodism – which in the UK has recently rejected online communion. We might argue that denying the cup to laity is the slippery slope to something else!

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
22 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy

I fail to see how the common cup is by implication “hierarchical”. It reminds us with our tendency to self-absorption that the Eucharist is about rather more than “making my Communion”. However, those of us who deprecate individual cups often vitiate our case by using individual breads. An unfortunate piece of symbolism and a failure of imagination when large breads (concelebration hosts) are readily available.

Charles Clapham
22 days ago
Reply to  Allan Sheath

I entirely agree on the unfortunate symbolism of individual wafers. But from a legal point of view, individual wafers are not only permitted, but actually encouraged under current COVID guidance. So it’s extremely difficult to see why the same would not be true for individual cups. Symbolically and theologically, one would have thought the issues are the exactly the same.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
22 days ago

Am I wrong in thinking that this whole discussion is rather like the Pharisees that Jesus dismissed as being more concerned with the letter of the law than with its spirit?

Charles Clapham
22 days ago

Incidently, the Anglican-Methodist Covenant declares (in Affirmation 2) that: “We affirm that in both our churches the word of God is authentically preached, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist are duly administered and celebrated”, and also that both churches (in Commitment 4): “commit ourselves to encourage forms of eucharistic sharing, including eucharistic hospitality, in accordance with the rules of our respective churches”. This suggests that from the Anglican point of view that any theological objections to the use of individual cups are not so great that their use would result in an ‘invalid’ eucharistic celebration. Whilst I realise… Read more »

Charles Clapham
22 days ago

Further on the Methodist use of individual cups, the implementation group of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant discussed the divergent practices in terms of distribution of the wine in their first report (In the Spirit of the Covenant, 2005). They argued that: “In both our churches there is a concern to express symbolically the unity which Christians have in Christ through the use of a single common cup… However, the use both of several chalices and also individual communion glasses detracts from this symbolism. Wherever practically possible, the use of a single common chalice would express the symbolism most clearly and also… Read more »

Jo B
Jo B
22 days ago

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of individual cups, is it not fairly clear that Mrs Durlacher is using the cover of Covid-19 to encourage a shift in practice and theology towards that popular among conservative evangelicals regardless of the current circumstances? A case of “never let a good crisis go to waste”.

Last edited 22 days ago by Jo B
Paul
Paul
22 days ago

A storm in a wine cup!

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
16 days ago

Seeing the Photo in Last weeks Church Times, depicting the Individual Glass Cups intended for use in administering the Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, it has clinical air to it! They look rather like Medicine glasses! I remember the year I spent as a Student of the Methodist East End Mission in Stepney (dissolved in 2002) as a than Anglican from September 1980 to June 1981 and attending the Methodist Eucharist, having been first to Anglican Mass at St Katherine’s Foundation at Butcher Row with the Mirfield Monks and the Methodists used these Medicine glasses. I think in general… Read more »

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