Deep Dive: Is it possible to experience the communion table online?

The Western church is in a strange moment. We have long enjoyed the freedom of meeting together as a body of believers in person, locally, and frequently. But last year brought a new challenge (varying in intensity depending on where you live) to our freedom of assembly. Without getting into the legality of the situation (for Americans, at least), I would like to take a moment to consider one important factor that might be getting overlooked due to the politically charged atmosphere of 2020—the question of the communion table.

Depending on your particular denomination or doctrinal belief, the communion (or Lord’s) table/Eucharist might be all but missing from this year’s calendar of experiences. Most churches are either scrambling to learn how to live stream or tentatively opening their doors for socially-distanced services (and some are serving lawsuits to their local and the federal government) so it’s understandable that they might not have the time or energy to tackle something as situationally unexpected as whether to serve communion online (or not).

Even so, the consideration of such an option means that we must first deal with the questions of 1.) what do we believe about the communion table (or, what is the purpose/aim of communion), and 2.) is this possible to achieve online/over the internet?

What is the purpose of communion (the Lord’s Supper)?

I can only answer the question of online communion from my own experience and belief, so that is what I will do…but I strongly believe the quandary is worthwhile for anyone in ministry currently (or any believer, really) to go back to the text and wrestle with—so I encourage you to do the same.

When considering Paul’s charge to the Corinthians on their mishandling of the Lord’s table in 1 Cor. 11:17-34, the fact that Paul has to deal with certain problems (divisions/disunity, the elevation of certain members of the community over others, greed, drunkenness, and other expressions of selfishness) that only manifest in a corporate setting should not be overlooked. After admonishing the group for its behavior (v. 20-22) and instructing them to individually examine themselves before partaking (v. 28), Paul then says, “Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (v. 33). The point is that the brothers and sisters cannot show this kind of preferential love by themselves at home. They must travel a dusty road to the gathering place and be seated at a table next to the body of another believer (and then patiently “wait for one another”). By doing so, the members are embodying Christ’s sacrificial nature and preferring others over themselves.

We have often remembered the words of Hebrews 10:25 this year—that we do not forsake the meeting of the saints—and this can be done provisionally and virtually in circumstances that demand it (long-distance travel, members who are sick or immobile, etc.) We can virtually worship together in song, in receiving teaching and preaching, even in agreement with corporate prayer. But can we join together at the Eucharistic table if we are not physically together? Can we participate in the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for us -his corporate body- if we are alone?

While Paul is providing practical guardrails for the Corinthians to learn the proper way to partake in the supper, we find the true crux of what he is teaching in 1 Cor. 11:26,

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

The Greek form for the word “proclaim” is katangellō, a word commonly used throughout the New Testament, which means to “declare openly, to proclaim, announce, preach, celebrate,”…you get the idea. To “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” through the sacrament of the supper inherently means that there will be one (or many) proclaiming while others listen and receive.

Paul’s emphasis here in “proclaim the Lord’s death” is something we do in the presence of one another—we don’t “proclaim” to ourselves, but to another person. It inherently requires us to be in a corporate setting. (Which, of course, we can do virtually via Zoom or Livestream, although I’m not sure can be done if you are alone and following a communion template.) The communion supper is meant to announce the atonement for the building up of the body (in celebration!) and to be a witness to seekers—it is a way that we “see” the beautiful work of the gospel while we await its fulfillment in Christ’s return.

5 Theological Dynamics of Communion (the Lord’s Supper)

At this point, I think it might be helpful to consider five theological dynamics that emerge from the communion sacrament. I assume that all five aspects can be achieved through the medium of a digital/virtual communion, but also believe the best scenario is an in-person and corporate expression of the table (for reasons stated above).

  1. Unity– the main purpose of the Lord’s supper/communion is unity. Primarily, unity between the believer and God, and secondarily (but still closely intertwined with the first) unity between the body of believers and God. Whether one believes that the elements transfer a kind of mystical exchange to achieve unity, or that the unity happens through remembrance/heart response, either way, the purpose is the welcoming, communing, and union of God’s Spirit with his people.
  2. Contemplation- Paul instructs the believers to engage in self-reflection at the table—to get quiet and allow the Spirit to search us inwardly and to be ultimately aligned with the Father’s heart and will (1 Cor. 11:28). This aspect goes hand-in-hand with repentance and renewal.
  3. Healing- Paul also mentions how neglecting the proper attitude toward the table has resulted in people getting sick and even dying, or “sleeping” depending on the translation (1 Cor. 11:30). On this point, we are keenly reminded of our holistic experience as people (body, soul, and spirit) and of the tangible effects of the power of the Holy Spirit moving in the corporate setting.
  4. Eschatological Hope- Time spent at the table causes us to turn our thoughts toward the ultimate rule of Christ as King -being birthed even now by the continual and progressive work of the Spirit- that which is our ultimate hope. Communion is an act of looking back, but it is also an act of looking forward “until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
  5. Resurrection Power- Approaching the table inspires us to remember the whole of Christ’s journey: the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection. It is our participation in all three phases that allow the Spirit of Christ to communicate real power to our lives. Communion is both a memorial to this process and participation in it (1 Cor. 10:16-17).[1]

So is it possible to experience the communion table online?

To return to our original two-part question, I hope the (above) five points provide helpful contours for answering what we believe about the purpose of communion. In my view, the strongest argument for a church to offer a digital/virtual communion to viewers at home (via Livestream or providing an outline) would be for the general encouragement of the believer who cannot physically meet with their local congregation. The sacrament is meant to provide a moment of self-reflection for the believer to remember the Lord’s sacrifice (the memorial view) and this can certainly be done anytime, anywhere by the aid of the Spirit.

However, I take seriously the argument against doing a digital/virtual communion precisely because of the way the Lord exemplified the supper (and his entire ministry, ie; foot washing, healing by touching) as an in-person experience, as well as Paul’s encouragement for the believers to “wait on one another” before they ate (discussed in 1 Cor. 11). On the one hand, I think communion is meant to be a type or model for us to understand the spiritual nature of our relationship with Christ (we are to “eat” and “drink” of him daily; Jn. 6:35, 57) but on the other hand, there is supernatural power in coming together as a corporate body to worship, reflect, and respond to God.

My overall impression is that communion CAN be done digitally/virtually if necessary, but that it is BETTER to come together in person. The Lord knew that in every circumstance of the church -whether pandemic or government oppression or personal hardship- we would need each other to continue in the faith. The communion table is a beautiful and uniquely Christian sacrament; it is time intentionally set aside for us to be united together with our total focus on Christ and what he has done for the church. May we not forsake the breaking of bread together in his name.


[1]Thanks to Professor Dony K. Donev, D.Min. at Lee University for feedback on the five-point framework of theological elements of the communion table from a Pentecostal perspective. Some of the language has been slightly changed to my own preference.

How I am Learning to Be a Better Fashion-lover

As I began to think about this post, I got stuck on what to title it.

I wanted to say something like, “How to be a good steward of your closet” –but then I hesitated. Does anyone use the word “steward” anymore? It sounds like a custodian, which sounds like a janitor, which then again, maybe we’re on to something.

Fashion & Stewardship: A Beginner’s Guide

Being a steward (or a custodian, or a janitor) in the broad sense is about taking care of something that doesn’t belong to us. As Christians, we believe that God is our Creator and the (primary, preeminent) owner of ourselves and that -for this temporary time we call life- we are being entrusted with our bodies and resources and time. Our aim is to live our lives coram Deo, or to God’s glory and our joy…and we can do this even through our wardrobe.

So, I know even mentioning money might seem out of the blue and sound so economically insensitive (lol) but if you are like, hold up, what? Then go ahead and listen to this podcast episode on “How We Approach Money” by the gals at Daily Grace and see how it all connects…and then come back for the rest of the post.

[intermission]

As I was saying, being a good steward generally means that we are compelled to think deeply about the process of taking care and we seek to do it with integrity and excellence. Therefore, being a good steward of our closets must mean that we think about how we make fashion choices (and yes, learning about things like where our clothing comes from, chain of production, environmental impact, etc.), but it also influences how we actually take care for the physical garments, and how we represent ourselves as ambassadors of Christ.

Delicate wash, please!

In a very practical way, we can begin by taking care of what we have. This could look like a lot of different things but would include regularly cleaning, pressing, and hanging up (or folding, putting away, etc.) our clothing to preserve its lifespan. It might mean sewing a button back on, buffing out a scuff, or altering a piece so it fits better (and you get more wear out of the purchase). One of my all-time favorite wardrobe purchases has been this inexpensive travel steamer:

Travel Garment Steamer

It’s handy for quickly steaming out a dress or blouse, and especially for those pieces that you want to wear more but hesitate because the fabric requires a bit more care.

Thrifting: The Original Ethical Choice

There is a lot of information out there about ethical shopping, so I won’t dive into that for now. I will offer this: if you (like me) are unable to physically get out and thrift but are open to second-hand clothing and shoes, then run *don’t walk* over to Poshmark. I don’t get any kind of kickback for saying this but y’all, it is such a great option for buying second-hand.

The idea is this–we all have those pieces that we never wear, so why not put them back into circulation? I tend to search for quality brands like Able, Everlane, Nisolo, Madewell, Sezane, etc. on the site and have found some great deals. Like these adorable sneakers!

Everlane sneakers for half the price!

And these fab leather mules!

Fav Nisolo mules

Money Realness

Finally, I think the best and most straightforward way to be a better fashion-lover (code here for “stewarding your closet well”) is to set a budget for your monthly purchases. I know that feels like a bummer answer, and I regularly cringe at the way it brings needed discipline to my life, but setting a specific dollar amount for your monthly spending is wisdom for two reasons.

First, it allows you to be totally aware of how much you are spending and where it is going; we will never change our (wasteful, impulsive?) bad habits without first having that self-awareness. And second, it helps you to put your money where you actually need (and want) it to go. Can never quite save up for that lovely 24k gold chain? Probably because your money is flowing like water at your local Target (again, I empathize-cringe with you). Sticking to a fashion budget will get you there quicker than you realize!


Taking care of what we already own might not sound very spiritual, but it is. Thoughtfully buying secondhand, instead of filling up another online cart doesn’t feel like it is doing much for our hearts, but it is. Setting up boundaries and personal accountability for our money might actually cause a little pain at first…but trust me, it is the good kind of pain. It means we are growing, maturing, and moving onward to become the people that God has called us to be! People who live actual lives of peace and contentedness in a world of chaos and insatiable desire for more.

Isn’t it good to know that there is another way?

Starting a new job? You need my “secret mentor” strategy.

When I was in my mid 20’s, I had the opportunity to join a new and exciting company in the luxury cosmetics field and started the job with stars in my eyes. I was already working as a freelance makeup artist around Nashville by offering my services to photographer, videographer, and event planning friends in the music business, so this seemed like the next right step.

Once I got into the swing of the daily job, I quickly realized how much I didn’t know. Not only was my product knowledge lacking, but my artistic skill was in it’s infancy–all I had to do was assist another seasoned makeup artist to witness her expertise while she served a challenging client (and it was obvious that her experience was light years away from my own!)

After some time, I noticed one artist in particular. She was polite, well groomed, and reserved (some would even say intimidating)…but her work was head and shoulders above the rest. Her ability to glance at someone and know exactly what product and shade to use spoke to her deep knowledge of our inventory; her skill at application and personal touch revealed her ability to execute both parts of her job (the artistic side and the sales side) with excellence. I decided then to make her my “secret mentor” via three points of action: I would watch her work, try to emulate as much as possible, and always be a help to her (and never a hindrance or annoyance!)

The strategy worked. It didn’t cost anything of me except my pride (and I was fine with being in the student role…I was too eager to learn to feel anything but excitement about it!) By observing someone else do the job really well, it helped me to visualize myself at that level and inspired me to work harder. It also brought focus to my mind during a shift because now I knew who I could turn to with my questions, where I could go to learn a new technique, and how I needed to be filling my time.

If you are starting a new job or transitioning careers, it will benefit you to find someone at your new firm to be your “secret mentor.” You don’t have to tell anyone (hence, the “secret” part) but you do have to pay attention!

You can do this by:

  • recognizing those in leadership who do their job well
  • zeroing-in on one or two people at this level
  • honoring those people by being a pillar of support for their work
  • and learn, learn, learn as much as possible!

Over time, I gleaned a wealth of knowledge from that artist, and we eventually became friends. Because of the example that my “secret mentor” set for me, I was able to rise to a role of brand education and regional leadership (which I loved even more than being a makeup artist!) There were many mistakes made during the early days of my working life, but this is a strategy that I’ve carried over to other jobs and careers and it has brought me success–I hope it serves you well!

A Letter on New Years Eve (2020)

Dear friends and loyal readers,

Somehow, we’ve made it to the end of 2020, the strangest year of my lifetime (and probably yours, too).

Aside from the election and virus drama (which is ongoing and not insignificant), our family has had an interesting year. We’ve had some exciting professional changes, as well as some personal growth in our local friendships. We’ve juggled our two oldest son’s education as it fluctuated from virtual (back in the spring) to in-person (this fall), along with the workload of my senior year at Lee University. We’ve stayed home a lot, learned to use an Instapot, enjoyed the Mandalorian, and read a ton of books.

Continue reading “A Letter on New Years Eve (2020)”

The Advent of Zechariah’s God

Zechariah was a priest and prophet about 500 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, yet he prophesied more than 14 specific points about the coming of Christ. His name, and the title of his book, means “the Lord remembers.”

We must remember the context: this was after the calling of a people through Abraham. After the period of enslavement in Egypt. After the miraculous exodus. After the wandering and battles and victories and losses. After the Babylonian captivity. After being set free, once again.

In Zech. chapter 2, we witness the powerful language of God speaking through Zechariah to His people, crying out, “Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!”

And

“Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” declares the Lord, “and I will be it’s glory within.”

And

“Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you...Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.”

Zechariah’s life was spent declaring the coming of Immanuel, the God who chose in love to come be with His people. Zechariah was fulfilling the priestly role—to prepare the way for the Lord…to call many nations out of Babylon and into Zion…to ignite a fire of readiness. He was foreshadowing the coming of Christ, our great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16).

Our God is not passive. Not forgetful. He remembers.

Can you feel the anticipation building?

Are you being made ready?

Three Things: Winter is Coming Edition (plus a bonus goodie!)

Temps are dropping, skies are grey, and gusts of wind whip the last of the golden leaves to blanket the ground. We are saying goodbye to glorious fall and bracing ourselves for a long winter–a winter spent (mostly) at home, no doubt, and in need of accoutrements.

In the spirit of making-the-most out of our mostly stationary lifestyle (hashtag 2020), I’ve put together a quick wishlist of items that I’m eyeing for the coming winter season.

Continue reading “Three Things: Winter is Coming Edition (plus a bonus goodie!)”

A Writer’s Campaign: Laundry, Essays, and Pressing On Toward the Goal

I look at the clock again. How is it that time already? Where have the last 45 minutes gone? I’m scrambling to finish the task I am doing, one of about a thousand that requires me to do it, my hands and my feet, and not anyone else. My pace quickens as I throw in another load of laundry, picking up items on the way to be distributed to their original places.

The small people in my home, my own flesh and blood and tears and laughter, ignore my prompt to brush their teeth to fight over a ninja turtle action figure instead. It is as if my house is spinning around me, tiny faces and random things flying through the air, and I can’t find a steady place to hang on to. I am Dorothy without her ruby red slippers.

Continue reading “A Writer’s Campaign: Laundry, Essays, and Pressing On Toward the Goal”