Guidelines for Gathering in Homes During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Written and compiled by Jason Jackson March 14, 2020
Guidelines for Gatherings in Homes
UPDATE: The President of the United States, the CDC, and the Colorado Department of Health have issued guideline that there are to be no gatherings over 10 people. Please be sure to abide by what your local health officials are saying, and check for their updates daily.
In times like these, we clearly see the importance of our meal groups and small groups. The Church is a gathered people. Throughout history, the Church has met in large venues and in homes. When it is impossible due to persecution or imprudent for reasons such as public health to all meet together, our smaller gatherings become more critical. If you do not feel comfortable hosting people during this time, we fully understand. Keep in mind that guidelines may differ from region to region. Please follow the recommendations of local officials in your area. This is a rapidly developing situation. Your well-being and the well-being of those in your community is of utmost importance. Loving your neighbor well means being wise about exposing them to risks. Instead of gathering together, you may think of other creative ways to connect with your group. Use hi-tech (social media, email, phone calls, etc.) to be high touch!
This is simply an invitation. As you consider meeting together in homes, here are a few recommendations:
Encourage kindness! You or others in your group may be experiencing high levels of anxiety right now. You or others may think that people are over-reacting. You or others may be somewhere in the middle. This is a time to care for each other not to try to convince people to see things our way. Be aware of your health. If you or anyone in your household is exhibiting any cold or flu symptoms, cancel your gathering. Be aware of your household’s health. If anyone in your meal group or anyone in his/her household is exhibiting symptoms, kindly ask them to stay at home. Disinfect all common surfaces (counters, door handles, etc.) before and after people arrive and invite everyone to wash or sanitize their hands when they arrive. Take extra precautions with meals or food. Avoid open, self serve containers. Utilize individually wrapped snacks or have one person serve the rest of the group. Greet warmly and carefully. Encourage people to foot bump, forearm smash, air high-five, etc. instead of shaking hands. Most importantly, be the Church! Worship together. Listen to each other. Read the Scriptures and pray together. Look for creative ways to serve. Share that stockpile of toilet paper with the person who has actually run out of it. Organize ways to get groceries to those particularly vulnerable to this virus.
From the earliest days of Christian worship, the Eucharist has been the central and culminating moment of our gatherings. At the Table we remember Jesus’s death, celebrate His resurrection, and anticipate His return. At the Table, we receive God’s grace for us. At the Table, we realize divine hospitality and Christian unity.
In many churches, the Eucharist can only be served a priest. At many other churches, including New Life Church, we believe every follower of Jesus is given a priestly role in God’s Kingdom (1 Peter 2:5-9).
In the coming weeks, as we are unable to all gather together for worship, we encourage you to continue to celebrate communion in your homes with your family, friends, meal group, or small group. At the same time, we urge you to be wise. Here are a few guidelines:
Wash Everything. It is critical that everyone washes their hands thoroughly and frequently and that you wash whatever plates and cups you use before and after communion. Avoid Passing the Elements and Dipping or Drinking from a Common Cup. You can swing by your local Christian bookstore to see if there are any individually wrapped communion elements in stock. If pre-packaged elements are not available, then limit the number of people touching any of the items. The best practice is to divide the elements into individual portions before people arrive, and then after watching the online service, encourage people to grab their own plate and cup and lead them in a liturgy together. This practice will help you maintain the level of social distancing recommended by health care professionals. Another less preferable option is to have a single individual (who has thoroughly washed his/her hands and preferably is wearing food service gloves) take a piece of bread or a cracker, dip it into the cup, and drop it into the open hands of the recipient. We encourage everyone to use grape juice or non-alcoholic wine. Some may want to use wine because the alcohol content can reduce (not eliminate) the risk of disease surviving in the cup, but please be aware that others may have a negative association with alcohol or a history of alcohol abuse in their family.
A Simple Liturgy for Communion
Confession of Sin
ALL: Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in Your will, and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your Name. Amen.
Assurance of Forgiveness
LEADER: It is my joy to announce the gospel to you—words that are true not because I say them, but because of what Jesus has done. So, would you open up your hands and receive again the mercy of God?
Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were yet sinners demonstrating God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. The peace of the Lord be with you!
ALL: And also with you!
LEADER: Now turn to one another and pass along the peace of Christ. (Encourage people to do this in creative ways to avoid or limit physical contact)
LEADER: The Lord is here
ALL: His Spirit is with us.
LEADER: Lift up your hearts.
ALL: We lift them to the Lord.
LEADER: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
ALL: It is right to give Him thanks and praise
Words of Institution
LEADER: [Hold up your bread plate] On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he blessed it, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
[Hold up your cup] After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
Mystery of Faith
LEADER: Let’s proclaim together the mystery of our faith.
ALL: Christ Has Died. Christ Is Risen. Christ Will Come Again.
Epiclesis (Come Holy Spirit!)
LEADER: Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here and on these gifts of bread and wine. May they be for us the body and blood of Christ so that we may we be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood. By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet. Through your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father, now and forever. Amen.
LEADER: These are the gifts of God, given for the people of God. Receive them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving. [Lead everyone in receiving the bread and cup]
*Liturgy words from the Book of Common Prayer and the UMC Book of Worship