Those Communion 'Pods'

Queer little things, ain’t they….?

Over the last year or so, many of us have been receiving Holy Communion in the form of communion ‘pods’. Fiddly little things that look a bit like the individual milk portions you sometimes get given in cafés. As anyone who has been given one will know, there are two layers. Under the first cover is a small piece of a bread-like substance and under the second some juice - the ‘wine’. The first time I was given one, I got it all wrong. I peeled back the cover to reveal the communion wine not realising I needed to peel back the cover over the bread first. I managed to sort it out in the end but it was a bit of a muddle.

Having communion in that form has, however led me to reflect a little on how I relate to receiving communion. Over the years I have received communion in many different churches. My first experience was with the common cup and a small piece of bread. In more recent years, I’ve become accustomed to the individual glasses our churches normally use. When we were living in Connecticut, sometimes we dipped the bread into the wine instead of having them separately. Added to that there have been services with small groups and others with large numbers of people. Every type feels different and I respond differently to each.

I find the experience in large settings the least satisfactory. Sometimes on holiday we have gone to cathedrals for their main Sunday communion service. To be true, it can feel a bit like a production line. You queue up, receive the wafer and struggle to swallow it before the communion cup is upon you, a quick sip and the cup moves on. Then back to your seat. All done quickly, no time to savour it.

Our normal services of Holy Communion are much slower and, for me much more satisfactory. There’s a little time to contemplate the bread when it’s placed into your hands and then the little glass of communion wine before you drink it. Typically, I pause a little and look up before drinking the wine. It gives me a greater sense of the meaning and significance of it all.

It’s different again, with the ‘pods’. I go up, one is dropped into my hands and I return to my seat. For a few moments during the quiet I contemplate it, then peel back the first cover to reveal the bread. Taking it out I slowly eat it, no rush. Then peel back the second cover to reveal the ‘wine’. The fragrance of the juice rises up and I smell it just for a moment. Then looking up I recall a line of a poem - ‘when heaven touched earth’, God reaching out to us, ‘body and blood’, making an intimate connection. Finally, I drink it.

In a way, I almost prefer it like that, having those few moments of quiet to contemplate what it’s all about. Queer and fiddly though they may be, perhaps those little communion ‘pods’ can open up a new appreciation of Holy Communion.

First published on: 30th November 2021