A Methodist minister in Great Britain was planning a communion service with a twist. The worshipers would take part via Twitter. Just before the service was to take place, the minister organizing it was asked by senior Methodist officials to wait until the idea could be examined.
The Church Times reports:
The Revd Tim Ross announced plans to hold the online service last month (News, 23 July), but decided to cancel it after senior Methodist officials asked for more time to consider whether a communion in cyberspace was appropriate..
Mr Ross wrote in a statement on his website: “Whilst I have not been absolutely forbidden to perform communion on Twitter, British Methodist Church authorities have strongly urged me to cancel it.”
The online service was replaced by a series of short prayers for Christian unity, which, Mr Ross said, “was the motivation for the project”.
The assistant secretary of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Ken Howcroft, said that the Church understood Mr Ross’s passion for the importance of communion and of using new media in mission; but the Church needed to “reflect and pray deeply in order to discern what developments are appropriate”.
In an article for the Methodist Recorder, Mr Ross said objections to the Twitter communion had been raised by the Methodist Church Faith and Order Committee, which said it was “not a valid communion”. The idea of “remote communion”, where participants receive the bread and wine at the same time, but in different places, “conflicts with the ethos of the Conference report ‘His Presence Makes the Feast’ (2003) which talks about ‘embodied worship’”
Clearly there's a different sacramental slant at play with the Methodists - or at least this particular Methodist - when Ross says: “The issue boils down to two questions: Is remote communion a valid com munion? Is the Christian community on the internet a valid, gathered Christian community? If the answer to both these questions is ‘Yes’, then a communion service performed by such a community of believers must be valid and may be performed.”
The Methodist report "His Presence Makes the Feast," cited in the Church Times story, has a different perspective. It emphasize the presence, in real life, of the community of the faithful especially during Communion, as essential for the Christian life:
204 Another contemporary ecumenical theme, now embraced by many Methodists but not an issue in the time of the Wesleys, is what is often referred to as ‘embodied’ worship. In language familiar to Methodists this would be called ‘the mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight’ (HP 333). Those who are participants in Holy Communion are not disembodied spirits indifferent to sight and sound - unaffected by the incarnation or by the classic drama of colour and movement of the liturgy. The liturgical movement - an integrated parallel with the ecumenical movement - has encouraged Christians to think about the layout of their churches. The arrangement of the worship space is a key part of Holy Communion - of word and sacrament. The cycle of the Christian year is an annual recapitulation of the saving acts of God in Christ proclaimed in story, music, colour, movement, light, and symbol.