Church Order Q: Can Elder's Perform the Lord's Supper to Those Who Are Sick or Shut-In?


Does the church order have anything on elders performing the Lord’s Supper to sick and shut-ins, or should a pastor be present and perform these sacrament?

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Elders are permitted to officiate at the Lord's Supper provided that they have received the approval of classis to do so (C.O., Art. 55). Otherwise, only ministers of the Word or commissioned pastors are authorized to officiate at the Lord's Supper. Logically, this applies also to the case of celebrating the Lord's Supper with those who are sick or shut-in.

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Cedric is correct about this if we are talking about administering the sacrament.  But I distinguish between the administration of the sacrament and the distribution of the elements.  Elders typically distribute the bread and wine (though others may assist).  A minister or an authorized elder administers them.

As I wrote in my commentary on Article 55:

"I do happen to believe that elders and ministers are free to serve communion to the home-bound or to members in hospitals or rest homes.  I don't view these as private celebrations of the sacrament but, rather, as extensions of official worship in the building.

Specifically, I have found it meaningful to have elders or elders' assistants serving such folk the bread and wine while playing tape recordings or DVD's of the service on a Sunday afternoon.  That enhances the notion that these actually become "extensions."  Then again, our elders sometimes do it in groups of three or four at hospitals or hospice facilities in a very simple ceremony along with prayer over one who is critically ill.  This reminds me of James 5:14: 'Is anyone among you sick?  Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.' So I have a hard time saying that this violates the order of the church."