Communion question...

As we were cleaning up Easter dinner tonight, I found myself with a goblet of wine and a loaf of french bread in each hand and felt very clerical all of the sudden…

Are there any liturgical laws regarding who can bless bread and wine and serve communion?

Are there any Christian sects which allow laity to perform the rituals?

Biblically, I wouldn’t think there would be any guidelines since there wasn’t a Church…

so curious…

I can only say that in the Catholic Church, don’t even think of consecrating your bread and wine unless you are a priest.

You can distribute bread that has already been consecrated, but you can’t do the consecrating because that’s almost the entire reason for having priests.

It’s that whole transubstantiation thing.

You could bless the bread. And I suppose, in many Protestant denominations, that could be consider “communion.”

However, not for Orthodox, Catholics or Anglicans, who believe that the substance of the bread changes to contain (or become) the true Body & Blood of Christ when it is blessed by an ordained priest. I believe Lutherans have similar beliefs, and would require an ordained minister, though I believe in Lutheranism the change doesn’t occur until the communicant takes the host or wine into their mouth, so the change may be dependent upon the faith of the believer, not the status of the blesser. A knowledgeable Lutheran would be able to answer that concern.

However, for those Christain bodies where there’s nothing changing in the bread or wine during communion, I can’t see why anyone couldn’t do the blessing. Though whether it would be considered “real” communion or not would depend on the theological persuasion of the person asked.


Organized Christian denominations usually have rules or guidelines as to who may perform sacramental rites.

In the Episcopal church a priest consecrates the bread and wine of the Eucharist. However, deacons and lay people may help distribute the elements. As stated in The Book of Common Prayer “When several deacons or priests are present, some may administer the Bread and others the Wine. In the abscense of sufficient deacons and priests, lay persons licensed by the bishop according to the canon may administer the Chalice.” I am not a priest or deacon but I have served to administer the chalice of wine in my church.

Also, Communion may be administered under “Special Circumstances”. The BCP has a form for that “…for use with those who for reasonable cause cannont be present at a public celebration of the Eucharist.” It is allowed that a deason or lay person may distribute Communion, using bread and wine that has already been consecrated at the “public” celebration. That word public is one of the keys I think. Communion is not supposed to be done on a whim, by just anyone, but after reflection and preparation

You didn’t ask about Baptism, but as you seemed curious about sacramental roles I thought I would mention that in the Episcopal church it is the priest who is supposed to do it. But in case of an emergency, say for example a newborn not expected to live, any baptized person may administer Baptism. As the BCP states, one would calle the person to be baptized by their name(if it is known) pour water on them, and say “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” I used to be a member of a Lutheran church, and they also allowed that any lay person, in case of emergency, could baptize someone.

I will be interested to see what other responses this thread gets achterover

In the Catholic Church, any baptized person may baptize another, in case of emergency. As usual, the Episcopal and Catholic positions almost mirror each other.


Semi-knowledgeable Lutheran here. I can really only speak for the Lutheranism I’m most familiar with (though it’s pretty similar for other kinds), and I’ll try to keep to what is taught by the church authorities instead of my own (not necessarily different) opinions. For this, I’ll use some quotes from Theology and Practice of the Lord’s Supper.

The Lutheran Church rejects transsubstantiation in the Roman Catholic ( et. al.) sense but does believe in what is termed the Real Presence. This is a spiritual transformation – the English phrase used is that Christ is present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. For more on that, follow the link above.

The stress is placed on the Words of Institution as being critically important for the sacrament (i.e. it’s not a change that takes place in the communicant’s body but once the words have been spoken). Along these lines the pastor is not so much an important element to it except as a ‘vessel’ for God’s power. I would imagine this is doctrinally pretty similar for all Christians; in practice I feel that Lutheran & Protestant denominations in general place less emphasis on the clergy than the Roman Catholic Church. The paper does lift this from the Augsburg Confession :

The Lutheran sacraments are defined to only include Communion and Baptism. Emergency baptisms are allowed by any baptized person as in most Christian denominations. There is usually not any perceived need for “emergency Communion”, so it’s not dealt with the same way.

In-home practice of communion is discouraged when it is done by groups who already are in a congregation. From the paper (bolding original):

Interesting; in the Methodist Church (at least here in the UK), communion is supposed to be carried out at least under the supervision of a minister, but there seems to be no reason why a person cannot partake in a personal, private version on their own or with friends (but the point here, I think, is that it isn’t the bread or wine that recieve a blessing, but the people).

Personally, I don’t think it need necessarily be bread and wine as such; it might just as well be popcorn and Coke as long as the symbology can be preserved, although in my experience, real bread and real wine, being timeless articles, do seem to facilitate the remembrance.

In the Catholic Church, the bread must be wheat bread, and the wine must be actual wine, or else it’s not valid communion.


It should be mentioned, by the way, that it’s not just blessing the bread and wine that’s significant, but a very specific blessing for the express purpose of communion. A priest or equivalent sitting down to a meal is likely to bless it in a standard mealtime prayer, and that meal may contain bread and wine, but that doesn’t make them Eucharist.

At least, that’s true for Catholics, and I presume most other Christians as well. Your denomination may vary.

I believe it’s the Salvation Army who don’t have specific communion rites, but consider that every meal is communion.
(taking literally the words ‘whenever you [drink/eat] it’).

Somebody please correct me if this isn’t the case.

Skimming my own post again, I just noticed how funny this quote sounds :

“…tendencies to regard the sacrament as more meaningful when partaken of in a beautiful setting …”

(i.e. one that is not a church …)

It’s apparent Garrison Keillor doesn’t make his stuff up.