Against intinction

I just mentioned how I wasn’t feeling well. Looking back, I think whatever I have has been brewing since last Saturday, so I can’t blame a communion-based infection from church Sunday. But I still don’t like intinction.

This was in a “low church” congregation with a tradition — as evidenced by their pagoda-like communion ware — of serving the ordinance in the pew, using trays of filled glasses and plates passed down the pews. I went to a low-church seminary, and this practice was widely disparaged with terms like “fish food” and “shot glasses”.

I’m much warmer to it now, and why not? While not an ancient practice — it dates more or less to  typhoid scares about a century ago — it is nonetheless an established practice and shouldn’t be discarded. There’s no shame in not acting like an Episcopalian, who seem the taste standard-bearers in such things.

And, more to the point, it places the meal in the hands of the laity: a potent image. This was lost when Hubby and I “went up” to get pita bread and as much grape juice as it could hold — delivered with a muddled, uncertain words. The plate and cup were held by clergy; I felt a slight ding against “soul competency“.

The (relative) good news is that the pita bread was cut — cut, not torn on the spot, which always makes me think of a pack of hyenas — into think slivers, so you could pick it up with one hand and dip the other end in. Which addresses one of my concerns: fingertips in the cup, itself a vector of disease, especially towards those who have suppressed immune systems.

So if you must intinct, please prepare the bread — can’t help you if you insist on wafers — in a handier manner. We’ll deal with the theology later.

Categorized as Sacraments

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Having grown up in a church with ‘wee cuppies’ it has always seemed to me to be the normal state of affairs, but it was a presbyterian/Uniting Church in Australia thing not an Anglican thing? In any case I have always disliked the symbolism of the minister/priest dolling out bread and wine as though it was theirs to give. In my childhood church the elders would distribute ‘shot glasses’ to the congregation, then the minister would offer the same glasses to the elders and then the elders would offer to the minister. Then everyone – minister, elders and congregation – would drink together. Repeat with bread.

  2. Just so. The counter argument to “the common cup is an emblem of unity” is that the congregation would have unity in time.

    And in case I wasn’t clear — seems I wasn’t — it was the Episcopalian influence that leads such churches to the common cup/clergy distributing method.

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