Friday, October 20, 2017

Me first. . .

Sent to me by a blog reader. . . very interesting!

On Sunday morning October 7, 1894, parishioners filled the Bedford Avenue Baptist Church of Brooklyn, New York, in anticipation of experiencing what The New York Times termed a “novelty in communion service” (October 8, 1894). Two newspapers had announced in late September that this church would implement individual cups. The September 28, 1894 issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle quoted Bedford’s pastor, J. H. Gunning, as saying that the cups would be used at the next communion service. However, attendees who arrived expecting the individual cups “were disappointed” to see the same old six silver goblets (The New York Times, October 8, 1894). After the service, Rev. Gunning called a business meeting during which he said he was anxious that his church be the first in Brooklyn to use individual communion cups. A majority voted, by standing, to purchase 200 three-inch tall silver cups lined with gold at a cost of thirty-five cents per communicant.

Up until the 1890s, Protestant churches throughout the world used common communion chalices. Some used just one, while others were known to use several in order to administer the fruit of the vine in a time-saving manner. However, churches using multiple chalices still had tens or perhaps hundreds of people sipping from the same cup during a communion service. In the late-nineteenth century, when outbreaks of diphtheria and tuberculosis were common, American sanitarians agitated to reform this religious practice—though no disease contraction had been linked to the use of a common communion chalice.

Reformers proposed several alternatives such as intinction, individual fistulas or siphons (straws?!), scalloped-rim chalices, and disinfectant cloths. However, among all proposals, individual cups emerged as the most popular method. Enough pastors and laymen became convinced of the sanitary need to use individual cups that the idea took hold, then rapidly spread into the twentieth century. This reform changed what was believed to be an almost 1,900-year-old method.
From what I understand, individual cups then entered Lutheranism a generation or two later.  Fear entered the mind and heart and with that fear distrust over the Lord's Word and then a reasonable, rational, and sensible solution to prevent disease.  It is a small thing, perhaps, but it illustrates well how fear challenges what the Word of the Lord says and yesterday's unassailable truth and practice becomes today's object of concern, fear, and rejection.    It should not come as any surprise that the suggestion for individual cups first came in an article written for “The Annals of Hygiene, of Philadelphia,” and not from theological perspective.

Lutherans knew nothing of individual cups until we saw what our Reformed cousins and the rest of American Protestantism was doing.  Then we too got on the bandwagon -- perhaps out of novelty but more likely because we, too, lost confidence in the Word and promise of the Lord and succumbed to the fear of disease (what turns out by every study to have been and still be an irrational fear).


Janis Williams said...

But then, if we are Christ’s, all fear becomes irrational. As C.S, Lewis had it in the Chronicles, Asian (Christ) will be our “good Lord” no matter what.

Anonymous said...

Time to ditch those little cups and get back to the one cup, which is what the Bible teaches and what we have always confessed. Pastors, take the lead and set the example. Teach on this and lead your people rightly.

Carl Vehse said...

The figure and excerpt were taken without attribution from a March 30, 2011,Sharper Iron article, Who First Adopted Individual Cups as a Regular Communion Practice?," by "Brenda T."

Carl Vehse said...

Rev. Peters: "From what I understand, individual cups then entered Lutheranism a generation or two later... [attributions of motives deleted] "It should not come as any surprise that the suggestion for individual cups first came in an article written for 'The Annals of Hygiene, of Philadelphia,' and not from theological perspective."

Actually, only eleven years later there was a Lutheran theological discussion in "The Individual Communion Cup, by the Rev. Joseph D. Krout (The Lutheran Quarterly, Volume 35, 1905, pp. 588-593). Rev. Krout concluded that "the individual cup is not contrary to Scripture, and is in all probability more nearly the correct mode of celebration."

Another indication that the individual communion cup was being considered by Lutherans in the first years of the 20th century is given in a footnote of a 1906 article, "Paraments of the Lord’s House", p. 94-5 by G. U. Wenner (Memoirs of the Lutheran Liturgical Association, Volume VI, published by the Lutheran Liturgical Association, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1906):

"The limits of this article forbid, or we might speak of numerous objects related to the altar, believing that many reforms are needed here in our church practice. One is the substitution of the ciborium for the paten. It looks better, has ancient usage to warrant it, and is better for practical reasons. Another is the banishment of the velum. At present its use is almost universal not only in Lutheran but also in Reformed Churches. It is a remnant of the Romish superstition in regard to the mysterium tremendum, and illustrates the persistence of custom even where the dogmatic foundation has long ago been taken away. Some writers speak of the symbolical importance of the corporal and the palla, but these are superfluities with which we can easily dispense. The lavabo cloth is seldom seen, and yet this has hygienic and aesthetic value. Its general use might forestall the introduction of the individual Communion cup."

In 1918, Christ Lutheran Church in Remsen, Iowa, became the first LCMS church to make use of the individual cups in their communion services. This period was the time when the influenza epidemic was spreading through the U.S. (with over 500,000 deaths). After that the use of individual communion cups increased in Lutheran churches in the United States.

Carl Vehse said...

In his Pastoral Theology (CPH, St. Louis, 1932, p.130) John H.C. Fritz stated:

“There is no dogmatical reason why the individual Communion cup should not be used. In many churches two cups are used, why not more? But there is also no good reason why the old practice of using the common Communion cup should be discontinued. Sanitary reasons do not absolutely forbid it; the danger of infection is very remote. The pastor should see to it that all the vessels used at the Communion table are kept scrupulously clean.”

In its 1944 Convention Proceedings vol. 39, p. 254), the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod passed a doctrinal resolution stated that "Nothing in Scripture forbids the use of individual communion cups."

In its "Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper" (1983), the CTCR states (p. 33):

"In the absence of a specific Scriptural mandate, either method of distribution, when performed in a reverent manner, is acceptable. Many Christians prefer the use of the common cup because of its symbolism as representative of the oneness of the body of Christ–the church–and because there is reason to believe that Christ used this method of distribution. Any decision in this area is to be marked by Christian liberty and charity."

Given these statements the Missouri Synod's doctrinal position appears to be that a Lutheran communicant may use the common cup or the individual cup in Christian liberty.

Carl Vehse said...

Regarding the unattributed article's specious claim ("no disease contraction had been linked to the use of a common communion chalice"), in a July 24, 2009, 7:35 am BJS post, Erich Heidenreich, DDS, states:

"Sharing drinking vessels and eating utensils is, indeed, a proven and efficient mode of transmission for many diseases, including influenza. This is why restaurants must disinfect such things if they don’t want the health department to shut them down. In today’s modern scientific world, no one would think of having a common water glass for everyone in a restaurant to drink out of. We all recognize this as unsanitary.

"It always amazes me when intelligent people argue about the scientific evidence of whether you can catch anything from use of a common cup. Of course it hasn’t been proven either way with regard to communion cups, because studies of this mode of disease transmission have almost never focused on communion cups. It is important, however, to point out the fact that it is false to think that the alcohol in the wine or the silver in the chalice act as efficient disinfectants. Silver has no efficient disinfectant effect, and it takes a concentration of 70% ethanol ten minutes to adequately disinfect a surface. Even fortified wine does not begin to approach that concentration. Only 151 Rum and Lysol do, and remember it takes ten minutes. Wiping the chalice lip does reduce the bioburden, but it does not eliminate it either.

"At least one study has shown that pathogenic bacteria and viruses are present on the common cup after actual sacramental use. Whether those pathogens are present in numbers sufficient to cause transmission of disease was not studied. There is also one study that would suggest that those who use the common cup experience no greater level of disease than those who don’t. However, those who have studied communion cups in particular probably have something they’re trying to prove, one way or the other. Therefore, any such studies should be looked at with suspicion. Serious scientists just haven’t had much of a reason to study communion cups in particular. They already know that common drinking vessels are a vector for disease transmission.

"Another false assumption is that “God wouldn’t let you catch anything from using the common cup.” Nowhere does God make any such promise.

"Given these facts, and the fact that those infected with influenza are contagious even before they develop symptoms, I leave the conclusion up to the reader as to what he or she should do individually, and/or what his or her congregation should do in the midst of an influenza pandemic.

"Personally, I would say that if there are those in a congregation who believe the common cup is the ONLY right way to commune in accordance with Christ’s institution, the common cup should be available for such persons. However, I would also say that, for the sake of those who do not believe the use of a common cup is mandated by Christ’s institution, a reverent method of utilizing individual cups should also be provided."

Carl Vehse said...

In the Tuesday, October 20, 2009, Pastoral Meanderings blog, "Precaution or Fear," there was a November 3, 2009 at 10:43 AM, response providing information about the testing protocol required for a valid and reputable experimental study needed to determine a quantitative risk value for disease transmission using the common cup.

Carl Vehse said...

Regarding unsubstantiated attribution of motives (a violation of the 8th commandment) for Lutherans who permit or use the individual communion cup, Erich Heidenreich, DDS, had this to say in his July 25, 2009, 10:23 pm BJS post:

"It often seems that there are many who believe there is NO possible good reason not to partake of the common cup. It seems such people look at those who use an individual cup as being too concerned about their own health. Please realize that, at least in my case on most occasions, when I use the individual cup I am consciously doing so out of honest concern for the life and health of my fellow Christians.

"So, while there may not be a good reason to discontinue the use of the common cup, there is at least one good reason some communicants might have for using the individual cup. I know and observe many dedicated common cup users who use individual cups when they know they are ill. I use the individual cup for the same reason, but I realize that none of us can know if we are contagious at any given point in time. Since I am almost always among at least the very first to commune, this is not done out of concern for my own health, but rather the health of those who would commune after me. For me, it is a Fifth Commandment issue — especially during a flu pandemic."

Pastor Peters said...

I find it somewhat amusing that those who insist that there is no evidence that disease is NOT transmitted by the chalice forget that each individual cup is touched by hands when placed into the tray, some are washed by hand and others, plastic, taken from a plastic bag or other container, and that hands extend over the individual cups as people pick them up. If our mouths are not clean, I am sure there is ample evidence that our hands are less clean. It would seem to me that if one were to choose a method of distribution solely on the basis of a somewhat overdone fear of disease, the chalice fares no worse than individual cups. It always amazes me that modernity with but a hundred years or more of using individual cups, and some 400 years after the Reformation, offers a novelty, individual cups, and that this quickly becomes almost the normative means of distribution among those who had few doubts, fears, or concerns until they saw what our Reformed cousins were doing. Lutherans can tolerate the cup but it is not our history or our identity at the rail.

Carl Vehse said...

Rev. Peters, amidst your amusement, it would be appreciated if you could identify by name, rather than innuendo, some Lutherans, "who insist that there is no evidence that disease is NOT transmitted by the chalice," especially since neither Erich Heidenreich nor I have made such a claim, and in fact, Erich clearly stated:

"Of course it hasn’t been proven either way with regard to communion cups, because studies of this mode of disease transmission have almost never focused on communion cups."

David Gray said...

I am stunned to learn that Mr. Strickert can identify individuals who think it is okay to use baby cups. I've always imagined this practice spread through the church without anyone ever being willing to defend it.

Carl Vehse said...

Whether communicants each drink the blood and wine from a large cup or from a small cup, there is no communion practice by Lutherans in which the communicants are to drink simultaneously from a communion cup.

And because there is no dominical mandate for the exclusive use of a large common cup, the main adiaphoric distinction (some may, in amazement, call it a "novelty") between a small cup and a large cup is the size.

In fact in some Lutheran churches several large communion cups are used during the distribution of the Lord's Supper. These could then be described as individual group communion cups.

Carl Vehse said...

Perhaps, Mr. Gray, when you are less "stunned," you may realize that I did not "identify individuals who think it is okay to use baby cups." Perhaps it was your imagination running wild. In any case, I, along with the Missouri Synod, oppose paedocommunion as incompatible with Scripture, Lutheran confessional doctrine, and Lutheran practice.

Anonymous said...

My parish did away with shot glasses at the request of the altar guild who didn't like washing all of those according to the stringet guidelines the pastor gave.
The pastor uses a purificator soaked in Everclear to wipe the chalice after lips have touched it.

Carl Vehse said...

It's good that Anon's church did away with the communion practice of using "shot glasses" (used primarily for liquor), even though Anon did not tell us whether his church's shot glasses were any of these shot glasses, or these LED-lit shot glasses, or these Lutheran shot glasses. In any case, such shot glasses typically hold 1 to 2 fl. oz.

This is more than the 0.5 fl. oz. the appropriate individual communion cups hold.

Carl Vehse said...

In his Miscellanea article, "Argument against the Individual Communion Cup from the Ex Autou" (Concordia Theological Monthly, Vol. 9, No. 7, 1938, pp. 520-522), Prof. John T. Mueller wrote:

"It has been asked whether the argument against the individual Communion cup from Christ's command 'Drink ye all of it' (Matt. 26: 27: 'Piete EX AUTOU pantes'; Mark 14: 23: 'Epion EX AUTOU pantes') is valid... In discussing this timely topic, we should like to stress the following points:

"1. In our literature the right of a church to use the individual cup has been defended. Dean Fritz, for example, in his excellent Pastoral Theology, writes with regard to the use of the individual cup as follows (p.149): 'There is no dogmatical reason why the individual Communion cup should not be used. In many churches two cups are used; why not more? But there is also no good reason why the old practise of using the common Communion cup should be discontinued. Sanitary reasons do not absolutely forbid it; the danger of infection is very remote.'

"2. No exegete of recognized ability and trustworthiness has ever drawn the conclusion from the ex auto'lL which some contenders actually have drawn. Their interpretation is an exegetical anomaly, violating all sound hermeneutical canons governing Scriptural exegesis.

Carl Vehse said...

"3. The meaning of the ex auto'lL is not: 'Drink ye out of the same cup' but, as our Authorized Version, and every other correct translation for all that (cf. Luther's 'Trinket alle dara'lLs'), reads: 'of it.' In other words, there is no special emphasis on the ex autou, as if the expression meant to say: 'Drink ye all of this one and the same cup.' Those who interpret the words thus commit the offense of eisegesis, or of misused explanation, which forces upon the text what the text itself does not say. 'Of the same [cup]' would require ek TOU autou.

"4. The fact that Christ here speaks in the singular: 'Drink ye all of it,' does not argue for the use of one common Communion cup, since, as the context shows, the singular autou is required by the singular potaerion, immediately preceding. In view of the singular potaerion Christ simply could not have said 'ex autoon' unless He wanted to violate the genius of Greek language.

"5. If the ex autou must be taken in a bare, literal sense, then our Lutheran churches erred in using two or more larger Communion cups at the celebration of the Lord's Supper. Yet this custom has been quite generally observed and acknowledged as correct in our Church.

"6. If the ex autou must be taken in a bare, literal sense, then, moreover, all communicants till the end of time must use the original cup which Christ used at the first Communion; for if the ex autou is demonstrative and exclusive, then we are compelled to go back to the same cup which Christ had in His hand when He spoke the words of institution.

Carl Vehse said...

"7. If bare literalness in this case is to apply, then, further, we have no assurance that we are right in using Communion wafers (Hostien), since Christ says: 'Take, eat; this (touto) is My body.' The touto is as singular as is the ex autou, and if the latter compels us to use but one cup, then the former must equally force us to use but one bread, especially since St. Paul, in 1 Cor. 10:17, emphasizes the one bread as symbolizing the unity of the body of believers. He says: 'For one bread (heis artos), one bod (hen sooma) we, the many, are; for we all partake of the one bread (ek tou henos artou).' This the Weimar Bible explains in its simple but excellent way: 'Also auch wir Christen, die wir von einem Brot im heiligen Abendmahl essen und von einem Kelch trinken, werden dadurch ein Leib und machen eine Kirche, eine Gemeinde.' That is to say: 'So also we Christians, who in the Lord's Supper eat of one bread and drink of one cup, thereby become one body and constitute one Church, one congregation.' But if the use of the many wafers does not destroy the symbolized Communion unity, then neither is it necessary to retain the one Communion cup. The parallelism here is complete, and what holds of the one bread holds also of the one cup. In short, the argument from the ex autou attempts to prove too much and therefore proves nothing, while it creates immense exegetic and dogmatic difficulties.

"When we say all this, we do not mean to urge the use of the individual cup. Whether a congregation wishes to do so or not depends on its own decision; for also with regard to this adiaphoron it may exercise its Christian liberty, provided no offense is given. Personally, for many reasons, we prefer the common Communion cup. However, as we must attack every attempt to say less than Holy Scripture does, so also we must combat every attempt to say more than Holy Scripture does. In other words, it is offensive and unchristian to make that a wrong which Scripture itself does not declare to be wrong. The principle of Christian liberty must never be violated." [Emphasis added]