Rev. Olewiler: We need clarity regarding the Sacrament of Holy Communion in the United Methodist Church. If a Local Part-time Pastor is going to be away can he /she consecrate the elements before leaving and let the Lay Leader and Lay Servants serve the meal to the congregation on the following Sunday? If yes, how far in advance can this consecration take place? Also: can the elements be taken to a nearby Full-time UM Elder to be consecrated and then served to the congregation by the Laity? Can the elements be consecrated over the phone? If no to any or all of the above, when did the current rules become effective? Are these rules by action of the General Conference or the Judicial Council? Thanks for answering all of these questions!"
Greetings from Jacksonville, FL, where we had 1 1/2 inches of rain in an hour and a half yesterday. Hope your area is not flooded!
The basic answer to all of your procedural questions is "no." In United Methodist theology and practice, the consecration of the elements is not done by the ordained minister. It is done by pastor and people together, following one of the Orders for Holy Communion in the hymnbook and Book of Worship. All of the possibilities about which you ask separate pastor and people, and thus are not considered legitimate consecrations.
When elements are consecrated by pastor and people together in worship, they may be taken to the sick, homebound, and others not able to attend by pastor or laity on the same day and served with the appropriate liturgy. On days other that that on which the pastor and people joined in communion, the elements are consecrated in the presence of those to whom they are taken by a pastor or leader qualified to preside over Holy Communion.
The fundamental United Methodist understanding of Holy Communion, which I am using to answer your questions, is Gayle Carlton Felton's "This Holy Mystery," adopted by the General Conference of 2004. It is available from Discipleship Resources (www.discipleshipresources.org).