The first “communion service” planned for Twitter has been postponed:
THE first communion service on the social-networking website Twitter did not take place last Saturday, after the Methodist minister organising it was asked to postpone it, while the Methodist Church examined the idea.
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”.
I’m sure many Catholics are scratching their heads about this story: how exactly do you have a “communion service” via Twitter? It’s not like you can send particles of bread or wine (or grape juice, the liquid of choice in many Methodist congregations) via that Interweb thingy. It looks like it was just intended to be a bunch of people receiving communion at the same time and tweeting about it:
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’”.
Mr Ross said the report’s reference to “disembodied spirits” did not say that participants must be in the same physical place, but rather referred to the attitude of those present. “The issue boils down to two questions: Is remote communion a valid communion? 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.”
At least someone in the Methodist hierarchy sees the problem with this type of service. As useful as technology can be, it is no replacement for physical interaction between people. Just like one cannot receive confession via the phone and you can’t baptize someone without physically pouring water over them, so too is the Eucharist intended to be celebrated in the context of people physically gathered together. Our Lord was incarnate in the flesh and we need to realize that even with the rise of the Internet, we still are flesh-and-blood persons whose bodies are not mere appendages to who we are, but are integral to us as persons.
Ultimately, we will be saved through our physical bodies, not in spite of them.