What would you do if you wanted to receive Holy Communion, but you couldn’t get to church? At my church we are lucky to have two readers who do a great job of taking Communion out to the sick and house-bound. But what about those who don’t know of that ministry, or don’t live in our parish? What can they do? The Open Episcopal Church has come up with its own solution to this dilemma – Post the Host . This is a new ministry, launched last week, which provides mail-order consecrated wafers, “Hosts”, to anyone who asks for them (and pays the postage). Being enthusiastic about innovation, I thought I’d give it a try:
Now you might think that you need a priest to be present for you to receive the body of Christ – to say the Eucharistic Prayer for you; but they’ve thought of that. By the magic of the internet and the services of youtube , Archbishop Jonathan Blake can be present in your own living-room to say Mass, just for you. He even offers a choice of services to suite all tastes. The more traditional can select a Catholic Mass , or even a Latin one. For charismatics there is a Pentecostal Mass where he says the Eucharistic prayer in tongues. You can choose a “radical ” Mass, an “inclusive ” Mass, a Trinity Sunday Mass ; there are two outdoor versions, complete with authentic bird-song and police sirens in the background. A music lover can select a singing Mass (not exactly a sung Mass – he uses choruses and modern worship songs rather than singing the Mass itself) or the teenager might like to select the “Street Mass ”. This last version is something very different from the Anglican experience. I still can’t watch it without laughing out loud (that’s “lol” to those who will be using this version). It lasts less than three minutes, and features a confession that goes “Alright God, Sorry if we messed up. Trying 2 sort things out but cummon, give us a break” followed by the absolution “OK. Hang on in there”. (The full text can be found on the Post the Host website.) Perhaps the closest to my own tradition is what he calls the "ornate Mass"The Hosts are supplied using the internet payment service paypal (Internet Explorer only) , (or you can send a cheque if you prefer ). The cost is £2 for any number of Hosts from one to 100. I ordered one to try it out, but due to a mix-up with the orders I was actually sent 100 consecrated wafers. Also enclosed was a card with the Image of the Devine Mercy and a mini-edition of “I Am With You” by Fr. John Woolley . They are dispatched by first class post, so they arrived 36 hours after I ordered them and I had them for the weekend. Early on Saturday morning I settled down in the comfort of the sofa in my own front room to receive the Body of Christ. My seven-year-old son, Gabriel, was very interested and wanted to join in. Gabriel is not confirmed and does not normally receive communion, but considering the highly inclusive nature of this new ministry, I didn’t feel that I should deny him. So we snuggled up together with a laptop and watched the “Singing Mass ”. After about 8 minutes ++ Jonathan tells us “please now receive the consecrated Host”. So we did – it was a lovely moment.
I am in two minds about this project. My first reaction to it was to laugh; and that’s been a fairly common reaction from people told about this. There has been a fair amount of cynicism and sarcasm about it in the press and on Christian bulletin boards I’ve read. The main objections seem to be that he is putting the body of Jesus in danger by leaving Him to the mercy of the postal service (++Jonathan denies this ); and that Holy Communion only makes sense as part of a Christian community. To do it as a private devotion, by mail-order simply doesn’t work. Against this, it can be argued that reserving the Sacred Mysteries for the benefit of faithful churchgoers only is putting Jesus in a box, when He should be out in the world. Archbishop Jonathan’s enthusiasm is hard to ignore. He is quite sure that he is providing a much needed ministry. So I’ll let him have the last word in his video addresses below.
Gabriel’s first reaction was “it tastes like Ready brek”!