It’s a practice observed in different ways by different churches, and referred to by various names.
Observance of the Lord’s Supper. The Eucharist. The Blessed Sacrament.
Or perhaps most simply, communion.
The observance hearkens back to the Last Supper, which the Bible notes that Jesus ate with his disciples just prior to his arrest and subsequent crucifixion. Gospel accounts note that during the dinner, Jesus broke bread for his disciples, telling them “this is my body,” then took a cup and declared it “the blood of my covenant.”
Today, Christians recall that occasion by eating a cracker or piece of bread and drinking from a cup or chalice as a proclamation of their faith. It becomes particularly poignant during the Easter season and especially so on the Thursday prior to Easter, known as Maundy or Holy Thursday, a day commemorating the Last Supper.
With most churches closed, though, because of coronavirus-fueled social distancing mandates, worshippers have not been able to gather to observe the rite.
That’s where Family Worship Center has decided to help.
The Kennedy Square congregation has purchased 500 prepackaged communion kits -- each one containing a small wafer and juice cup -- that Pastor Kris Kauffman and a handful of others will offer Saturday afternoon to anyone who would like them.
At first, Kauffman said, the plan was simply to make the kits available to members of Family Worship Center.
“The more we thought about it,” he said, “the more we thought maybe there are other people who don’t have it. Maybe their church is doing (Mass or services) online but they don’t have the sacraments.
“Then we thought, ‘Let’s do a drive-through.’”
That, then, is what will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the alley between the church -- the brick house of worship with the towering spire on Kennedy Square -- and the former post office building next to it.
“We will be passing them out with the gloves and masks on, to be safe, and people will just drive right up the alley,” Kauffman said. “The boxes (each containing 250 prepackaged kits) won’t even be open until the first car pulls up.
“No one has to leave their vehicle. We’re just going to pray a blessing and pass them out.”
The church has received permission from the city to do the distribution, Kauffman said, and security will be provided by the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department.
Family Worship Center will have a Facebook Live service at 6:30 p.m., and Kauffman invites everyone who receives the elements to log on and partake of them during the webcast. Alternately, he suggest that recipients can eat and drink them during a personal time of worship and prayer in their homes.
“It’s not exclusively for our church,” he said. “That’s the whole point. I want to make it available to everybody. People could just take bread and juice, but we felt like we wanted to give it to them, make it available.”
Communion also is scheduled to be observed tonight during a parking lot service at Mt. Jackson Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. Donald Aull, pastor, has been leading three such services on Thursdays, at 11 a.m. and 2 and 6:30 p.m. They were to continue today, with communion to be part of the evening service only.
“I’m just telling people, ‘bring your own bread from your house, or a dinner roll or cracker, and some kind of juice; it doesn’t have to be grape,” Aull said. “Then I’ll break the loaf out in the lot. But I’m telling people to bring their own elements.”
Aull also is planning to add an 11 a.m. parking lot service on Sunday in observance of Easter.
“I guess what I’m trying to do is to take that normal Sunday morning format and do that, which is a little more extensive than the Thursday meetings (which are about 20 minutes total),” he said, “but the main elements are the same: singing, praying and the message.”