Pastoral Letter on the Lord’s Supper:
- NCF shall begin to observe the Lord’s Supper from 14 March 2021 at our in-person services.
- For those unable to visit due to health concerns, the elders would like to visit and observe the Lord’s Supper with you. Kindly register by Friday of each week.
- Readers of this letter will learn about our decision to resume observing the Lord’s Supper.
Why haven’t we celebrated the Lord’s Supper in a while?
The COVID-19 pandemic threw life as we knew it into disarray, including our Sunday services. However, with the resumption of our worship services, we have been thrilled to enjoy the worship of God and fellowship with one another. We pray that our services continue to instil in us the fruit of the gospel, that of God reconciling sinners to himself and one another.
An evident absentee in our worship services has been our observance of the Lord’s Supper. Churches worldwide have wrestled with whether it is possible to celebrate the Lord’s Supper when we are not present together. In response, many have introduced the practice of what has come to be called ‘Virtual Communion’. However, after deliberating on this question, the Session has chosen to answer the question with a simple ‘no’. We want to explain that answer because we believe you must know that we have sought to be governed by Scripture on this matter and have arrived differently from churches that think differently from us. Please know that this is not a commentary on the decisions of other churches but an explanation of our decision for the saints at New City Fellowship.
On a general note, our views of what the Bible says do not change with our circumstances. Specifically applied to the Lord’s Supper, two crucial points arise from Scripture:
- Firstly, the gathered body with a gospel minister present is the place for observing the Lord’s Supper (consider reading 1 Corinthians 11:20-28). The Bible presents the Lord’s Supper as a sacrament to be observed by the gathered body. The Lord’s Supper requires that we be together. Likewise, an ordained gospel minister must be present to open the Word, point people to the gospel, and fence the table (the action of the elder where unbelievers and unrepentant believers are discouraged from participating in the Lord’s Supper, and repentant believers are urged to participate in the Lord’s Supper). These are all integral aspects with regards to the Lord’s Supper. Thus, the biblical ideal for the observance of the Lord’s Supper is in a gathered body with the minister of the Word present to preach the gospel and distribute the elements of the Lord’s Supper in the name of Christ.
- Secondly, Jesus Christ is present with us when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper as the gathered body (consider reading 1 Corinthians 10:16). The Roman Catholic Church believes that Christ is re-sacrificed in the Mass. The Orthodox Church believes that people are mystically reconnected back to Calvary each time the Eucharist is celebrated. More close to home, some Protestant churches believe that the Lord’s Supper is merely a memorial, a time to think upon the death of Christ for repenting sinners. As a Reformed church in the Protestant tradition, New City Fellowship believes that the Lord’s Supper is a time to think back on the cross of Christ (a memorial) but also a time to think ahead to when we will sit with Christ himself at his table in the new creation. Further, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we believe that Christ is indeed present by his Holy Spirit, feeding believers with grace to trust and hope when they participate in the Lord’s Supper with a faith-filled focus on him. It is important to point out here that it is not consuming the elements of the Lord’s Supper that automatically benefits the believer; the elements themselves don’t do anything. But it is consuming the elements with faith in Christ that benefits the believer and bolsters one’s faith. Reformed churches believe that Christ is spiritually present in the Lord’s Supper, and so we also call it ‘Communion’; we commune and fellowship with our Lord and his people in the Lord’s Supper. We did not celebrate the Lord’s Supper when we could not gather for worship for these two reasons.
Grace during this period of non-observance of the Lord’s Supper:
When circumstances do not allow us to observe it, there is no biblical reason to think that we are deprived of the grace of God or that we are disobeying God in not observing it. This was the case for us when we could not gather for worship for the greater part of last year. With the conviction that the Lord’s Supper ought to be observed in a gathered body with a gospel minister, we sought to submit to God’s providence as he temporarily did not allow us to observe it as he would like for us to observe it. And we did not want to take the sacrament by force through biblically unspecified means. The Lord’s Supper not celebrated as God has prescribed in the Bible is no longer the Lord’s Supper. Had we still practised the Lord’s Supper without a gathered body in the presence of a gospel minister, what we would be offering would have been only of an emotional value, with no biblical reason to think that it was of spiritual value.
The plan going forward
For those that are attending in-person services
Now that we can gather back for worship, we will resume observing the Lord’s Supper. The Bible gives us freedom on the frequency with which we may celebrate it. The biblical command is that we do it often (1 Corinthians 11:26). Churches throughout history have observed the Lord’s Supper at different frequencies. Some have celebrated it once a year, others once a month, still others twice a month, and, as was New City Fellowship’s custom, every week. At our worship services, the following two measures will be practised during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper:
- We will use prepackaged cups and wafer for a season.
- The adequate space between rows of seats allows for an elder to walk through and distribute the elements.
For those not yet able to attend in-person
For those members unable to come to our worship services, we encourage you to watch our services live-streamed at 10 AM. However, for the reasons mentioned above, we ask you not to replicate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper wherever you are watching. Instead, the elders would like to visit you to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with you. For this purpose, please note the following:
- Firstly, because what elders are essentially doing is a short worship service at your residence and our energies are limited, we can serve only those who are members or have been regular attendees of NCF before and during the pandemic. We will strive to visit you at least once a month, if not more often, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with you.
- Secondly, please be sure in your conscience that your reason for not attending our scheduled worship service is indeed due to COVID-19 restrictions that you wish to adhere to in all areas of your life and not just to our Sunday services.
- Thirdly, kindly fill out the form on our website asking for a visit from the elders by the Friday of each week. Pardon the appearance of formality and over-structuring. But filling out the form can help us work on coordinating and scheduling all our visits.
- Fourthly, during the visit, you can expect a short form of our worship service. The elder will follow the different elements of our worship guide (called Rhythms of Grace at NCF), offer a brief word of encouragement from God’s Word, observe the Lord’s Supper with you, and close in prayer. We will wear our masks during our visit and practice social distancing (except when consuming the elements of the Lord’s Supper and passing them to you).
The Lord’s Supper places God’s people between remembering the death of Christ and anticipating the marriage feast of the Lamb when our Saviour will himself be our host, and we as his beloved guests will sit at his table forever. Whether you intend to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at our scheduled worship service or through an elder-visitation, let us celebrate with joy and anticipation that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again!
With much love for you in the gospel,
Rakshith (on behalf of the Session)