Communion by Extension is an extension or expansion of the rite of Holy Communion in areas and at times wherein priests are not available for whatever reason. Holy Communion or Holy Mass is a weekly ceremony in church where the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist are observed culminating in the consecration of the bread and wine for the communion of the faithful.
Three churches in Great Britain have introduced this service – the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church and the Church of England – amidst considerable controvery, according to Tovey (2009 p 1).
It is the objective of this paper to examine this practice for its theological, liturgical and other considerations or implications with the end in view of adding enrichment and expanded understanding of the rite in the midst of the ongoing animated discussions on the subject. It is also hoped that the analysis may aid in providing guidance to non-ordained ministers who may be positioned to officiate in such a rite of the need to take extreme care in the officiating in the face of such unresolved milieu.
What Is Communion by Extension?
This practice of extended communion was officially allowed under the Guidelines approved by the House of Bishops in October 2000. Under the guidelines, communion by extension may be done only by explicit permission from the Bishop, emphasising the rite’s exceptional nature. Even when a parish has already secured a written authority to use the Commission by Extension service, the Sunday Holy Communion which is the main regular service must continue as a regular ceremony. The extension service may be led only by a person specifically authorised by the Bishop, and this person must ensure that proper care and dignity must be given to every detail of the ceremony so that it does not lose its solemnity and essence. Such a permission is always considered provisional and presumes that the service is not in itself a celebration of Holy Communion but enables the worshipping community to participate “by extension.” It is also presumed that the rules for its conduct shall strictly follow the Guidelines in form and substance. The act of allowing the faithful to receive communion without being part of the consecration in a Communion by Extension assumes that the gathering of the people is not a substitute for the Sunday service, which is mandated as a regular service, and is allowed only because a priest is not available to preside over a eucharistic celebration. Under this assumption, the receiving of the reserved sacrament is identified as part of the earlier Eucharistic rite and is therefore symbolically identified and linked to the universal church (Taylor, 2009 p 164). This Communion by Extension has been approved in the Anglican Church under heavy questioning over such authority granted to the laity. Some Theological Considerations A non-ordained person