I want to return to a question that I began to raise a couple of weeks ago regarding liturgy online.
Let me concoct a scenario this time and ask a question.
Last year I went down to one of the glorious English Cathedrals to preach. Being robed and up at the sharp end of things, I was also asked to help in the distribution of the bread and wine. (I think I had bread). At the offertory, someone came round and gave me me a ciborium full of hosts and told me to stand next to the altar for the consecration.
Now, I was surprised by this as in the norms I know, the bread would need to be on the altar to be consecrated. However, in this house of God, there was just one host and one chalice on the altar. The rest of the bread and wine was presumed to be consecrated whilst being held in the hands of the Eucharistic assistants who gathered on either side of the altar holding up the elements during the consecration.
Now, firstly, do we think that is OK? (I know that some will think this is a dancing on the heads of pins question, but quite a lot hangs on it).
If it is OK, how far away might the bread and wine be and still be presumed to be consecrated? Is there a particular distance or does it depend on the intention of the consecrating priest, the intention of the gathered community or both. (As a curate I once baulked at celebrating the Eucharist on an altar on which a harvest loaf was perched for fear of having to eat the whole thing afterwards. My training rector at the time declared that it was not consecrated if I did not intend to consecrate it).
Now, suppose we have two congregations which are linked in fellowship and love but who live on adjacent islands. Their priest, Father Indulgent wants everyone to have communion each Sundayand they are devout and holy and desirous of weekly communion. However, the person who runs the ferry link between the two blessed islands belongs to the Free Church of God of the Sabbath (continuing) and consequently will not operate any boat on a Sunday, for fear of eternal damnation.
What would we think, if Father set up a system (either closed circuit TV or via the internet) whereby he could stand at the altar in St Anaglypta-of-the-Rocks on one island but be seen and heard in St Eucalyptus-by-the-Skerry on the other island and then proceeded to have one communion service? Could he be deemed to consecrate the elements in both churches whilst remaining in one of them?
We will presume that the devout communities in each, respond with a loud Amen at the end of the Eucharistic prayer.