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!"

Dear John:

    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 (  


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The Rev. William E. Olewiler


United Methodist church structure and doctrine. Science and religion. Christian Education and the Sunday School. Religion and race. Women in the church. United Methodist pastor for 22 years. Member, commissions on Religion and Race and Status and Role of Women. Masters in Divinity and Religious Education.


Ordained deacon and elder, United Methodist Church. District and conference leadership.

Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, George Washington University, Washington DC Master of Arts, Political Science, Brown University, Providence RI Master of Arts, Teaching Secondary Social Studies, Teachers College/Columbia University, New York NY Master of Divinity, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC Doctor of Ministry, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC

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