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Holy Communion During COVID-19

ELCA and the Western North Dakota Synod have authorized the use in-home Communion during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic because of the suspension of in-person services. 

After the ban on gatherings is lifted, Lutherans are expected to discontinue this in-home practice and resume communing in person with the congregation.

Please see the following message and instructions from the Western North Dakota Synod - ELCA:

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,


In 1527, Germany, like many places in Europe, faced a deadly outbreak of the bubonic plague. When a fellow pastor asked Martin Luther for his advice on how to handle the situation, Luther responded:


"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.


If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.


If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”


"Whether one may flee from a Deadly Plague," Luther's Works volume 43


This is indeed a time for us to be neither brash nor foolhardy. It is also a time when we must keep the well-being of our neighbor foremost in our minds. The spread of COVID-19 has come later to North Dakota than to other parts of the country which means we are likely just beginning to see its impact on our communities. We will continue to follow the recommendations of Governor Burgum's office and the ND Department of Health. Continuing to limit our public gatherings for the sake of the neighbor is our ongoing recommendation at this time.


One concern that continues to be raised is how the people of God might receive Holy Communion during this time? As Lutherans, we understand that in a time of emergency, all baptized Christians are authorized to administer the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Remembering also that Martin Luther provided the Small Catechism with the understanding that the home is the first church and the head of household the first pastor or teacher of the faith, during this time, it would be appropriate for families to celebrate holy communion together in their homes. For that purpose, we asked one of our synod pastors to write a liturgy booklet that could be used in the home when we are unable to worship together. The liturgy booklet and a recipe for making your own communion bread can be found at the end of this letter. Please use as is helpful in your congregation - mail it to members, post it on your facebook page or website, edit it to fit your community.


During this time of emergency, you may in good conscience deliver these Words of promise in your home and know that it is a valid delivering of Christ’s promise of forgiveness, life, and salvation. I do want to reinforce that these measures are only in place for as long as we are in this state of emergency. Once we are holding regular worship services, we will follow good church order and understand that while all baptized Christians may deliver Christ’s promise in emergency situations, this is not a role you can assume in your congregation outside of such times. Regular congregational duties are rightly administered by those called to a public ministry office.


Along with the home communion booklet, we have also provided a link to Martin and the Family Table. This resource was written by pastors and deacons from our synod in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Martin and the Family Table is a compilation of activities that bring the teachings of the Small Catechism to life and were written to be shared as a family. Each contains a bit of scripture, prayer, activity and conversation related to a portion of Luther's Small Catechism.


We pray these resources will deepen your life of faith in this time.



Yours in Christ,

The Rev. David B. Zellmer

Serving as Interim Bishop, Western North Dakota Synod - ELCA

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