Loudon Cumberland Presbyterian Church has adapted communion during COVID-19 to ensure the service remains safe.

The church, on College Street in downtown Loudon, has been using small disposable plastic cups with a plastic top that can be peeled back for a communion wafer. Below the wafer, another plastic layer can be peeled back for communion juice.

“It’s been very interesting to see that this has been very effective,” the Rev. Mark Hester, pastor, said.

Cumberland Presbyterian has tried a few methods to continue offering communion during COVID, with one of those having someone pass out the communion elements while wearing plastic gloves.

Several churches have tried finding ways to offer communion, Hester said.

“Different churches are seizing opportunities to do it different ways,” he said. “We are realizing that there are other ways to take communion without getting away from communion. ...There are new ways to take communion.”

Disposable cups are his church’s solution. The small single-serving packages can be used instead of serving bread that people touch or serving juice or wine in a common cup.

“What’s popular in our church is to have a disposable cup,” Hester said. “It’s being received very well by people.”

He was uncertain if the church would go back to a glass cup with people tearing bread off a loaf for communion.

The church celebrated Worldwide Communion on Sunday, which is an annual event the first Sunday in October that allows churches to celebrate at the same time. Communion can include such elements as bread and wine or wafers and grape juice.

“It’s the Lord’s table, not ours,” Hester said. “If you are someone who has accepted Christ, then you are invited to participate in the Lord’s supper with us. It’s just a time of celebration.”

Sixty-four people participated in Worldwide Communion at the church, Kimberly Wilks, administrative assistant, said, adding more likely participated virtually.

“I think it’s important because it brings all of us together as one body in Christ,” Wilks said. “It doesn’t matter our denomination.”

She and Hester believe churches can have different communion frequencies. Some churches have them quarterly, some monthly and others more often.

“But this is the one that we all do it together on the same day,” Wilks said.

Cumberland Presbyterian temporarily closed after the COVID-19 pandemic started in Tennessee in the spring 2020 but re-opened in September. The church also used the pre-packaged communion wafers and juice during Worldwide Communion last year, Hester said.

He pointed out that it’s probably not the first time people have used plastic at communion. People might have used Kool-Aid and crackers at church camps, Hester said. Normally in a formal worship service, churches will bring out their best dishes and glassware.

“It’s not the first time it’s been done,” he said of the disposable packaging. However, “it’s the first time it’s been intentional in normal church settings.”

He said communion with the disposable packages can still be spiritual and “close to the Lord.” Congregation members can feel closer to God whether they use chinaware or sanitized plastic cups.

“People are still feeling that it is holy,” Hester said.