How to give communion to someone who cannot swallow. Bedside communion in hospital and hospice sometimes requires us to offer communion to comatose or semi-comatose persons, or those with ventilators and feeding tubes which prevent them from taking in food. My practice has been to crumble a wee bit of bread over the wine, then use an eyedropper to place just a drop or two within the patient's mouth. One of the candidates said that he had once used a plastic sponge-stick (normally used for moistening a patient's mouth) to do the same.
What about all the exceptions being made for people avoiding gluten, etc.? Some congregations now offer multiple kinds of bread to fit the boutique diets of our parishioners. A few even offer multiple ways of offering the wine, in order to not offend those freaked out about other people's germs. Sigh. The sign value of "one bread, one cup" is lost when everyone gets to take communion, McDonald's style ("have it your way"). Now, our sacramental theology, which is basically Anglican, begins with a dim view of medieval Catholic sacramentalism, which is sometimes unfortunate. We emphasize that both bread and wine are to be given to those receiving communion, but the Catholic doctrine is that the presence of Christ is perfect under either species, i.e., that Christ is fully present in both bread and wine. So, if you can't take one, you can take the other, and still receive all that Christ has to give of himself. Maybe we should rediscover this doctrine.
Speaking of germophobes . . . We talked about washing hands and/or using hand sanitizer before celebrating at the Table. We also noted the over-use of hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap in our society today. We discussed various ways of distributing bread in flu season. And I mentioned a friend's "Rule of Thumb," i.e., one should always take a thumb-sized piece of bread. When you see some über-delicate old lady take the tiniest crumb and then drag her fingers through the cup, you'll instantly understand why.
Dunking do's and don'ts. We got off on the mechanics of baptism by immersion. Most Methodists have no training and little observed experience of this. But there are a couple of things you need to know if you're called upon to do it. First, people float. So you have to push them under and pull them out. Discussion of where to put hands, etc., followed. Second, people being lowered into water don't pivot at their waists, but from their heels. So you have to position yourself somewhat behind the persons you're dunking, or you risk being pulled over on top of them or not being able to haul them out when you're done. Especially when they're taller than you are.
Mentoring is an important part of our candidacy process. The Conference is mostly concerned that mentors maneuver their candidates through the paperwork and meetings stuff, because it's so easy to get derailed by our complicated procedures. But mentoring is also about passing on the accumulated wisdom of the ministry (the wisdom of the aged, so to speak) to those who are just starting out, to make their way easier and their congregations better served. I am happy, even in retirement, to do my part.