15 January 2021  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

In the Covid-19 pandemic our church is meeting indoors, wearing masks and distancing.  But we haven’t had communion service for months. Part of the problem is the closeness required for foot washing. 

Is it okay to serve the emblems (in a careful way) without doing foot washing first?  Is it biblical to have one without the other?  

Thank you,

Worried Washer

Dear Worried,

I’m glad your church is thinking about this problem. Let Aunty give you another point of view that perhaps you can discuss with your group..

While we Seventh-day Adventists value the communion service it is not for us, as it is in the Catholic and Anglican churches, a means of salvation. We call the Lord’s Supper and the footwashing “ordinances”—that is, things we are commanded to do for reflection, remembrance and understanding. 

While all the gospels mention the Lord’s Supper, the foot washing is spoken of only once. That doesn’t make it unimportant, but one theologian Aunty asked insisted that there is no case for its being a necessary prelude to the Lord’s Supper. (In fact, in John’s gospel footwashing appears to come after supper, because the meal was “in progress” and Jesus “got up from the meal”! See John 13:2,4. It’s puzzling why we do it first.)

Aunty wonders if it would relieve the minds of all of us if we would set aside the entire communion service, footwashing and the Lord’s Supper, during this time of crisis? The General Conference Biblical Research Institute’s (BRI’s) newsletter, in an article on how to manage worship activities during Covid-19, summed up the necessity of this activity as follows:

Neither the Bible nor the writings of Ellen G. White prescribe the frequency for the communion service. In the early days of the Adventist Church, it was held when an ordained minister was present. … The sixteenth Fundamental Belief does not prescribe a frequency, and the Church Manual only mentions that “usually it is part of the worship service on the next to the last Sabbath of each quarter,” without setting an absolute standard.

In other words, according to the BRI, the Lord’s Supper can be postponed indefinitely in an emergency situation such as we’re in now. Imagine how bad you’d feel if, feeling pressured to do it, someone got sick and died! I don’t think Jesus would insist that we do this intimate activity if it would endanger people. 

Aunty noticed that the Adventist Today Sabbath Seminar did an online communion service a few months ago, and is planning another in March. Perhaps your congregation would consider doing the same, especially with new more contagious strains of the virus now floating around?

Aunt Sevvy

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