VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Coastal Community Church, like many other churches, has been working to find the solution to a critical question -- How can its members practice communion during an ongoing pandemic?
"We've had ushers who would pass out the bread and then the juice, and that's a no-no now,” Hank Brooks, pastor of Coastal Community Church in Virginia Beach, said.
Trying to figure out how they can still practice communion during services, church leaders looked around for a solution. Then, Brooks said, they discovered a small plastic cup online called the Communion Cup.
It seemed like a great alternative, but Brooks said he was skeptical at first.
"Celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus using these pre-packaged elements, it made me wonder if it were even possible,” Brooks explained. "Once we got past the description of how the people in the pews were supposed to get into the bread and into the juice, it went fine."
The disposable cup, packaged with the elements of communion, added to Coastal Community Church’s existing COVID-19 safety measures including virtual services, social distancing congregants and wearing face coverings.
The communion cup is identical to small coffee creamer cups that one might find at stores. The top seal consists of the wafer, also known as the host. Under that is another seal that contains grape juice, representing the blood of Jesus.
The communion cup has been around since the 1990s but Celebration Cups, the company that produces the communion cups, said sales of the communion cups have surged in the last year.
"Primarily due to the pandemic and people's concerns around sanitation and hygiene,” Robert Johnson, the company’s president, said. "Necessity is the primary reason why you're seeing it."
Johnson added that the company's factory had a hard time keeping up with the demand when churches chose this alternative.
"To meet that demand was a challenge in terms of being able to procure raw materials, the juice that we need, so forth and so on," Johnson said. "It put a squeeze on us."
The company’s factory has leveled with that demand, and with a shelf life of up to 12 months, Johnson predicts churches will still use the communion cups even after the pandemic. Pastor Brooks agrees.
"I would assume we're going to be using those prepackaged elements for a long time to come,” Brooks said.