Can online Communion be a substitute for the real thing?

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Some churches are modifying their worship practices, including a shared Communion chalice or hugs and handshakes at the sign of peace, in an effort to stem the spread of swine flu. Religion News Service file photo by Lynn Ischay.

Some churches are modifying their worship practices, including a shared Communion chalice or hugs and handshakes at the sign of peace, in an effort to stem the spread of swine flu. Religion News Service file photo by Lynn Ischay.

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(RNS) The idea of online Communion raises fundamental questions about the definition of community, individual participation, the role of tradition and basic theological understandings of the meaning of Communion.

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  • The virtual community is denying gospel´s words: “And the Word made ​​flesh, and dwelt among us.”

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  • Robert

    Awesome idea! I don’t like people anyway. How great that I can be a Christian and get my preaching from the TV, communion from the internet, worship from a iTunes download and serve the less fortunate by making a financial donation online. Who needs other people to be accountable to, or to learn from, or to serve alongside with. I sure hope heaven is this way, cause being in community with people is too troublesome and demanding. Who wants that?

  • Nate Bostian

    Without embodied, sacramental participation in human community, we are missing the point of the Incarnation (“the Word made flesh” as the bishop above pointed out). Then Christianity becomes simply Gnosticism or a philosophical viewpoint, rather than following a God who became human and dwelt in human community and used matter, ritual, and embodied action to communicate God’s life to others. Online communion can be a sort of religious pornography for some: An attempt to gain the feelings of religion without the commitment. It commodifies the Divine-human relationship into just another lifestyle product to be bought at an online vendor. A discussion group of a community of real, live embodied atheists would be a more authentically Christian worship experience than a virtual communion without community. For an excellent exploration of this, read the sci-fi novel “Noir” by KW Jeter.

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  • John

    Your analysis is spot-on Nate. This issue is pretty transparent and should not be hard to see it for the complete fallacy that it is.

  • RM

    “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” — Mattew 18:20

    Why can’t this happen in front of a computer screen?

  • Diego

    Because it doesn’t even meet the threshold of at least Two gathered in a location in Jesus’s name…

  • Cynthia Astle

    Please stop using Mark Tooley of the IRD as a conservative source. He is not a credible commentator on The United Methodist Church — or any Protestant denomination for that matter. No way, no how. Find someone else with some authentic credentials. PLEASE.

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  • RM

    So, me and boyfriend are sitting in front of the screen; and your objection is….?

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  • Thecla

    This is crazy. Of course physical presence matters–else we wouldn’t pay to travel. With the internet of course we can see pictures of all that beautiful stuff. But we want to go to Istanbul, to Venice, to Ravenna, to all those beautiful churches. Why would anyone WANT the online communion if they could get the real thing? We would of course rather go to Ravenna, to be in San Vitale and experience it in the round. You simply can’t get that slam-bang experience looking at the various views of the mosaics–you don’t get the experience of that structure, that jewel, or the intense experience. Why would anyone want virtual communion–why would anyone want to forgo the experience?

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  • Nancy

    You have got to be kidding! On-line communion is like cybersex . . . nothing good or productive can come from it. This just gives people another reason not to attend church.

  • Not that anyone cares, but this would be a violation of Article XVIII of the Methodist Articles of religion (the lifted up, carried about and gazed upon part) and the association with ocular communion.

    And communion with Kool-aid? Surely that’s a typo and they meant grape juice?

    I really thought this was from Lark News when I saw the headline. I wish it was…

  • Wayne Bradley

    Whatever happened to the idea of bringing Holy Communion to shut-ins?

  • Mark

    Because Matthew 18:15-20 is about church discipline and accountability not simply being in a room next to one other person and saying “see, we’re doing church together.”

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  • Unbelievable, literally, that so many people can be so agitated about their collective ability to determine what magical actions and words can be used to regulate communion with God and the people of God. They all make the argument for abandoning a liturgical eucharist and encouraging all people to make every meal an agape meal — mindfully reminding ourselves of our interdependency and ultimate dependency on the giver of life.

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  • a Saint

    All of us who are saved, and now saints, have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, so we can pray over the bread and wine to sanctify it. Then with properly discerning that these elements are the body and blood of Christ, partake. The bread represents his body broken for us [our healing] and the wine for the new covenant [grace] both in memory of him. When we properly discern that it is his body, we are no longer, weak, sick, or falling asleep [dying before our time].
    Christ did this with the couple in Emmaus and it so energized them that they walked the 7 miles all the way back to Jerusalem after just walking 7 miles to Emmaus [half marathon]. So when two or more are gathered do it, do it often, do it daily if sick. TV and Internet just help this by providing the gathering.

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  • Justan O Therman

    Is Christ not always with us?
    Sin happens in the heart… Do not forgiveness, submission, obedience, devotion, repentance and contrition also happen in the heart? Why not then Holy Communion? Is ritual a necessity or a formality? Christ fulfilled the ceremonial law in His perfect walk, death and resurrection, and brought the moral law of love, compassion and forgiveness. I submit that Christ lives in each heart, and ceremony can be shared through Him… We carry His love out into the world. When we are with Christ, we are with each other. One body, one spirit, and one church. The intent is to repent unto renewed obedience and revived love, forgiveness and compassion to others. Admittedly, if you are the last person on Earth, it seems impractical, but is it? Would it be? I submit that a tree that falls in the woods makes a sound, even if only Christ (God) hears it. What was Christ doing all that time in isolation in the wilderness? Not wasting His time, I wouldn’t think ( I don’t…

  • Justan O Therman

    I haven’t always the convenience of daily, church hosted eucharist…. I attend when it’s available and circumstance doesn’t prevent it, but preference is not priority… Sincerity is priority. I appreciate the ability to pray the Eucharist any day, every day, multiple times in a day if needed. I guess it’s just me, but even a video online is an option – when my computer died and it wasn’t “Communion Sunday” I got out my Methodist hymnal and read the service privately, with the host elements… I believe they were blessed because I was earnest and sincere. I believe God hears the voice crying out in the wilderness. Pomp and circumstance, as well as “shared, communal experience” is nice, but the meat of the matter is spiritual, and occurs internally. It will still be manifest in all my dealings afterward. I believe in an omnipresent God Who hears and answers His children, wherever they are, and in whatever company they are, even alone. Christ doesn’t live in Jerusalem, but in…

  • Justan O Therman

    I prefer steak and lobster, but sometimes have to settle for hot dogs or Ramen noodles… It’s still food and it sustains me.

    “It’s not what goes into the mouth, but what comes out of it that defiles a man, for it was conceived in the heart.”

    Are blessings any different? Just food for thought.

    By the way, my computer is no more… Is there any more or less truth to my words because I’m typing them on my phone? God bless us all, we need all the help we can get.