Why not an ‘online Eucharist’?: A Scottish-Episcopal perspective on presence

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Michael Hull


The experience of Covid-19’s lockdowns, especially living through a period without the Eucharist on Sunday lays behind this theological reflection from the perspective of a Scottish Episcopalian about so-called online Eucharists with remote consecrations. The question I set is simple: ‘Can the elements of bread and wine be consecrated outwith the gathered community?’ Simple too is my answer: ‘No, they cannot.’ The pandemic has tested the fault lines of God’s presence in our worship, our presence in community and those presences in the Eucharist. I argue that God’s presence with us was unchanged by lockdown. I also argue that although many of us began to use ‘onsite’, ‘online’ and a variety of related terms in unprecedented ways vis-à-vis liturgies, our presence to one another was changed during lockdown. When we could not gather as a community, even if we were able to communicate via the internet, we could neither celebrate the Eucharist nor consecrate the elements. Theological reflection will, I hope, hone our appreciation of the significance of our humanity, the Incarnation, and the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacramental economy.

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