Andrew Goddard writes: The inability to share a common cup due to Covid-19 has resulted in the withdrawal of wine at Holy Communion and the claim that administration of wine in individual cups is contrary to law in the Church of England. This was reaffirmed in answer to a Synod question on Saturday. This article highlights the historical and theological significance of communion in both kinds in Anglicanism. It then explains the 1547 Sacrament Act to show the flaws in the arguments of that Synod answer before offering further critiques of the legal opinion on which that answer was based. It argues that individual cups are not contrary to law and that refusal to offer communion in both kinds is theologically significant given Anglican doctrine. The bishops therefore urgently need to review the situation and open up the possibility, if desired and able to be safely administered, of congregations using individual cups until a common cup can be restored.
On Tuesday we will have a celebration of the Lord’s Supper at St James the Less in Pimlico for the first time since lockdown. For all except the presiding minister, however, it will be communion “in one kind” i.e. only one of the two elements will be offered to the congregation. In the current situation it is clearly unwise to drink from the same cup as other people and so wine will not be offered to worshippers. This will not be new. We had already withdrawn the cup for several weeks, even before the formal advice to do so by the Archbishops on 10th March, as Westminster had one of the earliest cases of Covid-19. Nevertheless, the prospect of this being the situation for many months, perhaps even a year or more, raises the question as to why ways cannot be found for the congregation to receive wine as well as bread.
Anglicanism and Communion in Both Kinds
It is easy to forget the importance of receiving both bread and wine within Anglican, and wider Reformation, theology and liturgy. Article 30 of the 39 Articles (introduced in the 1563 revision of the Articles, following the 1562 Council of Trent justifying the medieval practice of only giving bread to the laity) is entitled “Of Both Kinds”. It reads: