Saints and Communion

By Zachary Guiliano

An open hearing Wednesday night by General Convention’s Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music focused on proposals related to revising the church’s calendar of saints, especially the proposals related to adding new commemorations (A055) and replacing Holy Women, Holy Men with the very different A Great Cloud of Witnesses (A056).

One member of the committee, Bishop Dan Martins of Springfield, described the proposals as a quagmire. The committee faces significant difficulty resolving various proposed resolutions and dealing with requests given in testimony.

“Overnight, an alarming number of you admitted that you have no idea what’s going on with the calendar,” said the committee’s co-chair, the Rev. Devon Anderson, on Thursday morning.

Other proposals before the committee include amending Article X of the Constitution (A066), allowing lay distribution of pre-consecrated eucharistic elements in the absence of clergy (A044), and adopting new churchwide standards on the use of Bible translations (A063).

Testimony on lay distribution of Communion was frequently eloquent and impassioned, and most of it came from Native Americans, Latinos, and members of rural congregations.

Ron Braman, deputy from Idaho, spoke in favor of the resolution: “I come from a small church in Idaho, a reservation church. We can go a month without Communion. We can’t afford a seminary-trained priest or often even a supply priest. I’ve had to tell our supply priest, ‘We can’t afford you this month.’”

“We respect the holiness of Communion,” he said, despite infrequent access to it. “For those of you in opposition to the resolution, I wonder when the last time you had Eucharist was?”

Wendy Canas, alternate deputy from New York: “I’m not saying the laity should replace the priests, but I am saying we can help you.”

Henry Lodge, deputy from East Tennessee, added, “I want Jesus accessible to my people and yours. We want to be fed; please give us ways to be fed.”

All deputies who spoke in favor of the resolution noted how much attendance dropped at their churches whenever they could not have Holy Communion.

“This resolution would give us what Roman Catholics have had for some time,” said the Rev. Mike Tess, deputy from Milwaukee. “It would not be a final answer to the problem, but it would help.”

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