Month: May 2020


Rev. Canon Francis Omondi

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The identity and thence the visibility of the ACK is tethered to the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Hewn from the empires of European Christendom, the ACK is an imperial church[1], marked with domination, hierarchy, patriarchy, and Episcopal structures. The colonial spirit shaped her in the mould of ethnic divisions, exploitation, and snobbism, continues to drive her engines. And this puts the ACK in a bind, and at pains to express her witness in context.

The bedeviling divisions, both between and within our churches, are a signal to a shift away from a modern paradigm of truth, dogma, and correct practices, towards a postmodern one of conversations and constructions of temporary knowledge and truths.[2] This paradigm is wrecking the once imposing edifice of the imperial Anglican church and therefore demanding radical changes in the church for her visibility. Some local Anglican churches, using Article 34- Traditions of the Church Tradition[3], have proposed, and or tinkered with canons and liturgy to enhance their visibility in contexts.

There is, however, a delicate balance we must maintain while making changes. Because one suspect move on our identity initiated by a local church impinges on the rest of the communion. Advocates of changes tend to package their issues as Anglican Communion challenges, that latter emerges as the conservatives-progressives divide. The conservative (GAFCON) in presenting their vision, “Toward a Symphony of Instruments”[4]  a structure to advance Anglican coherence in a global south context, eyed as a dose “for the well-being of our Anglican Communion.” But behind their readiness to jettison the Episcopal jurisdiction, which they termed a “mere geographical location,” lay the craving to isolate enclaves of “orthodoxy” in the progressive bastions. This is a contradiction and a departure from Anglican orthodoxy (see Executive Summary §4). While the progressive’s vision for the communion lays in “The Anglican Covenant”[5]. They remain broad, affirming the ecumenical vision of the Church, entered through the baptismal door (Intro §§1-3);  celebrates difference among Anglicans (Intro. § 4); acknowledges  vulnerability, and reaches for God’s help. They believe in God’s “will redeem our struggles and weakness” and “renew and enrich our common life” (Intro. §8; see more 2.1.3).

The ACK should disentangle herself from the shackles of this binary tussle. She should not either align with the progressives, seeking to blend the church’s visibility to their changed context, or against the conservatives, aspiring to uphold traditional values as was. It is possible to be pawns in this conflict, while the ACK’s local challenges remain unattended. The ACK should instead take advantage of the postmodern mood to spur the Anglican Communion into new frontiers of challenges. Challenges more urgent, more pressing, and vital for her visibility in context.

The ACK visibility is being ravaged from inside by the effects of a “post-Christian” era, a typical sign of a postmodern age. There is immense concern about Anglicans, who for varied reasons, have left institutional Christianity. Others hold on as Christians, but no longer want to belong to it alone, they share allegiance with competing groups. Many of them are reverting to African Traditional Religious practices[6], to meet certain spiritual and social needs. They have judged the institutional Christianity to be irrelevant to their daily struggles. For this and many reasons, they do not look up to the church for moral guidance. Besides, the ACK which fought for justice and the liberation of the oppressed has become voiceless, powerless, and not as organised as she once was regarding the challenges that society faces today, such as poverty,  corruption, violence, and crime.

The forecast on the social and economic impact of the coronavirus will overwhelm weaker economies, with fragile social safety nets for the population. The faithful Kenyan Anglicans will strain to prop up this Church. A Church built with imperial concrete on sinking sand of poverty. Such a structure designed for the empire, loaded with dogmas, systems and traditions, incongruent with scriptures, and in desperate need of support and foreign aid, will not stand. Not for long. Besides, ACK does not have the backing of market capitalism and liberal democracy other western countries of the communion have. But all these will be strained under the pressure and ravages of the coronavirus.

Perhaps, the good to come out of this period, might be an awakening to the pre-existing conditions of our religious decay. We were not as healthy as we made it to appear. Apart from being medical COVID-19 is to a greater extent a social virus that will eviscerate the Anglican church as we know it today.  We will wake into an unfamiliar world from this Pandemic.  How shall we mitigate against extinction?

Scientists would not look backward in choosing, from among existing theories when searching, for alternatives. They seek “the fittest way to practice future science” (Kuhn 1970 pp. 172), and therefore base their decision not on information about previous contributions but based on the expected value of their prospective contribution to a paradigm.

In an enthralling narrative on why civilisations die, Rebecca Costa[7] recounts how when societies reach a cognitive threshold they can’t chart a path from the present to the future. The hit a gridlock. And there they would die off. She explains that the fall occurs because problems became too many and complicated for the people of that time and place to solve. Such cognitive overload can happen to any system and may already be happening to the Anglican Church.

Rebecca, therefore, gives two signs for the breakdown. First, there is  gridlock. Instead of dealing with what everyone can see are major problems, people continue as usual and pass their problems on to the next generation. Then as there is a retreat into irrationality. For facts no longer make sense, and people take refuge in religious consolations.

How Judaism endured and survived the atrocities of the Roman empire, is a lesson for us today.  The Jews made a remarkable response after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE).[8] Faced with the loss of the entire infrastructure of the holy, the Temple, its Priests, and sacrifices, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks[9] explains, Judaism translated the entire system of divine service into the everyday life of ordinary Jews. “In prayer, every Jew became a Priest offering a sacrifice. In repentance, he became a High Priest, atoning for his sins and those of his people. Every synagogue, in Israel or elsewhere, became a fragment of the Temple in Jerusalem. Every table became an altar, every act of charity or hospitality, a kind of sacrifice”, Sacks elaborates.

The Jews did not abandon the past. But they did not cling to it either. They refused to take refuge in irrationality. But they, as Sacks observes, “thought through the future and created institutions like the synagogue and houses of study and schools that could be built anywhere and sustain Jewish identity even in the most adverse conditions.” Judaism has always survived, unlike other world civilizations in one sense because of  Divine providence, but Sacks attributes it also to “the foresight of people like Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai[10] who resisted cognitive breakdown, created solutions today for the problems of tomorrow, who did not seek refuge in the irrational, and who built the Jewish future.”

Our crisis presents us with the incentive to desire a new paradigm, and to invite others to the  benefits it proffers. Kuhn (1970, pp. 152) described shifts in paradigm allegiance as a conversion experience driven by the efforts of individual scientists to persuade each other.

As Anglicans, we must contemplate worst-case scenarios. Plan generations ahead. Ask what we would do, if… What saved the Jewish people, Rabbi Sacks concludes, “was their ability…. never to let go of the rational thought”, and refusing to let their loyalty to the past, to come in the way of their future, they kept planning for the future.

It is during a crisis such as this that new ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tried, argues Kuhn. But eventually, a new paradigm is formed, which then gains its new followers, and that triggers an intellectual “battle” between the followers of the new paradigm and the hold-outs of the old paradigm.

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Towards a New Paradigm: Priesthood to all believers

We should make all Confirmed Christians be priests. Thus, give them the authority to serve in the priestly role in church liturgy, sacraments, and witness. To incorporate lay Christians into the priesthood, will best realise our belief in the priesthood of all believers, a vision ACK holds for Christians in divine service. And it states:

Lay persons form by far the greater part of the body of Christ. They cannot walk worthily in their high calling, unless they realize that they too are sharers in the heavenly high priesthood of Christ, and that this sharing must find expression in holiness, in witness, and in loving service of others (ACK. Const. 2002 Article VI: #7).

Laity is already leading in liturgy services. This change should permit them not only to offer prayers but also to grant absolution for the confessants, pronounce blessings on God’s people, and give last rites for the dying.[11] Also, they should administer sacraments of baptism[12] and Eucharist.

Making all believers priests would more reflect the scriptural ideal of God’s “Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation” than the present practice. Christians need to realise their calling as in Leviticus (19: 1-2) “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them, ‘Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy.’” The New Testament, affirms that all believers in the priesthood of the New Covenant:

“ You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.… But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (Rev. 1:6).

Rabbinic Judaism emerging out of the devastating tragedy of the loss of the Temple, created a religious and social order that achieved this vision of the people as “a kingdom of Priests and a holy nation”. Their leaders made Priesthood the right and obligation of every Jew. Should we not do the same to Christianity more so, to our Anglican church?

With all believers as priests, their lives would turn into God’s service in society. All believers will be more aware of themselves as the community of the Kingdom of God, now scattered in homes fragments of the divine sanctuary. Yet in these small shards, the believers gather to encounter God upon whom they wholly depend. And as explained by Niringiye (2014 pp. 21), “the visibility of the community is in its gathering… in Jesus’ name”. They will engage in God’s service through prayer. And make sacrifices by acts of charity,  create sacred fellowship by hospitality with every table would become an altar for offerings unto God. Hence, the community of believers would exist as a divine sign pointing to the reality beyond, at the same time reflecting the glory of Christ in the present. Christians, now priests, would in the vision of bishop Newbigin, be the instruments through which God carries His will for justice, peace and freedom in the world, and as a foretaste of the presence of the Kingdom.[13]

We must transform institutional church structures into instruments to equip all believers for service. They should be centers for Christian education. Where we train our children in our faith, giving them tools to thrive as Christians in the world. Using our church infrastructures as centers for Christian learning would in effect reorient our priests to actualise their role as teachers and instructors of the faith. Equipping believers, though guiding them in understanding the holy texts and doing theology, will stir the development of fresh liturgy and visibility. Christian theology encourages an engaged spirituality, which lives out its theological convictions in social life. An engaged spirituality seeks to be true to the essence of theology, which St Anselm of Canterbury (11th century) defines as fides quarens intellectum — faith in search of understanding.

What the ACK should discover, is not the proclaiming of a timeless universal truth, but the listening to God’s involvement in the stories of the local community. The church ought to recognise that it is in opening herself up that she would experience a truly radical transformation. A true transformation is a gift of listening to the traces of God’s involvement among us, which brings about liberation and thus creates a space for impossible possibilities. And these are the true transformation.

We can achieve for the Anglican Church what the prophets, the sages, and the Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages accomplished for Judaism. They realised that sacrifices were symbolic enactments of processes of the mind, heart, and deed that could be expressed in other ways. Torah study, once the specialty of the Priesthood, became the right and obligation of everyone. Sacks [14]concludes,  not everyone could wear the crown of Priesthood, but everyone could wear the crown of  the Torah. Judaism, therefore, transformed to cope with new contexts they found themselves in.

In Kuhn’s philosophy, deciding to reject an old paradigm for the new, remains an important aspect. He is clear that the rejection of one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself. It is the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other, that would lead to the decision to shift. Kuhn (1970, pp. 152) described shifts in paradigm allegiance as a conversion experience driven by the efforts of individual scientists to persuade each other. Our present crisis demands a new paradigm. This paper suggests a new paradigm for the ACK. We must examine and consider it for the Anglican church also.  How we persuade the Anglican Communion to join in, abandon the old structure and benefit from fresh ideas is another matter. According to Kuhn, the development of science is not uniform but has alternating “normal” and “revolutionary” (or “extraordinary”) phases. Kuhn perceived that most scientists engage in activity consistent with the prevailing paradigm with reasonably small alterations, put differently normal science. But they encounter anomalies the paradigm cannot resolve some individuals may step out of the paradigm and propose new principle or law. If the proposed changes are accepted in the scientific community, then the science experiences a paradigm shift. It follows then that the new science initiates a new paradigm.

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As the coronavirus crisis reveals and amplifies the awareness of our social fractures, we will expect the Church to be a part of finding long-term solutions. And questions will be asked of her actions.

The ACK is in a liminal space concerning her visibility. A space of being in transition. She must open herself to listen and search for God’s involvement in the world. It is by being in conversation and interpreting God’s involvement that she will be in the transition, from an institution founded on truths and established practices, to an open community, vulnerable, and exposed to the impossible possibilities of Christ’s presence, outside traditional places (cf. Matt. 25).

We are yet to understand the impact of this pandemic, it may be worse than we are projecting. There are crises because of violence affecting Christians, who have not gathered to worship, nor had sacraments for a long time. We will face more challenges. Should we just contemplate worst-case scenarios? Plan generations ahead. Ask what we would do, if… What saved the Jewish people, Rabbi Sacks concludes, was their ability never to let go of rational thought, and refusing to let their loyalty to the past, to come in the future’s way, they kept planning for the future.

If ACK and the Anglican Church adopts this proposal, any future suspension of physical public gathering would not affect her visibility. Christians would continue to hear God’s word read or preached, and to receive the sacrament in another way. This will then be a Church that has opened herself to the paradigm shift.


Published as:

Visibility of The Church in the Wake of COVID-19: The Case of the Anglican Church of Kenya



Aloo O. Mojola, 2020: Utu, Ubuntu and Community, Reimaging and Celebrating the Web of life and the dignity and worth of all humans: Nairobi, Tafsiri Press.

Andrew N. Porter, 2003, The imperial Horizons of British protestant missions, 1880-1914 : Grand Rapids MI. Eerdmans Publishing.

Barbara W. Tuchman, 1979: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century; New York. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

David Z. Niringiye, 2014: The Church, God’s Pilgrim People; Carlisle. Langham Global Library.

E. Lesslie Newbigin, 1988: “On being the Church in the World”, The parish Church? Exploration in the Relationship of the Church and the World (ed. G. Ecclestone; Oxford: Mowbray).

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza Malawi, March 2020: Accessed 9 May 2020

Jonathan Sacks, 2019:  Tzav 5771. covenant & conversation Torah digital for Office of the Chief Rabbi. Accessed 7 May 2020.

________  Accessed 7 May 2020.

_______ Accessed 7 May 2020

Rebecca D. Costa, 2010: The Watchman’s Rattle, A Radical New Theory of Collapse, Philadelphia PA. Vanguard Press.

The Anglican Church of Kenya, Constitution 2002, Nairobi Uzima Press.

The Anglican Church of Kenya, Our Modern Services, 2012 Nairobi Uzima Publishing House.

Thomas S. Kuhn 1968, 1970: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

William John Torrance Kirby, The Doctrine of the Royal Supremacy in the Thought of Richard Hooker: Christ Church, Oxford. A Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the University of Oxford
Trinity Term, 1987.

Williams, Rowan, ‘Is there a Christian Sexual Ethic?’, in Open to Judgement: Sermons and Addresses (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1994), pp. 164  Google Scholar. Accessed 9 May 2020.


[1] Description by Andrew N. Porter in The Imperial Horizons of British Protestant Mission shows how “Christianity became not only the ‘state’ religion but an imperial religion.”

[2] Prof. Aloo O. Mojola,  2020 pp. 177:  Modernity, Post-modernity and the information age: Prospects and Challenges for African Theological education in the twentieth century, in “Utu, Ubuntu and Community, Reimaging and Celebrating the Web of life and the dignity and worth of all humans”: Nairobi, Tafsiri Press.

[3] It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one or utterly alike; for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s word.



[6] ACK Diocese of Mt. Kenya South report 2015 on “Kiama kia Athuri” The committee Synod: Min. Synod /15/10/4.

[7] Rebecca D. Costa 2010: The Watchman’s Rattle, A Radical New Theory of Collapse, Philadelphia PA. Vanguard Press.

[8] Jews came under Roman rule between Pompey’s conquest in 63 BCE and the collapse of the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135 CE.


[10] Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai comforted Rabbi Joshua, who wondered how Israel would atone for its sins without sacrifices, with the words, “My son we have another atonement as effective as this: acts of kindness, as it is written (Hosea 6: 6), ‘I desire kindness and not sacrifice’” (Avot deRabbi Natan 8).

[11] Because there were so many ill, during the C14th. black death and so few priests remained as the disease progressed, Clement VI declared that the dying could make their confession to anyone present – “even to a woman”, said an English bishop (Tuchman, p.94) – and that it would still lead to salvation. This was a big deal for the Church, as previously only the clergy were permitted to perform last rites.

[12] This is already applicable in an emergency, full communicants other than a priest may baptize. (OMS 2002: 43)

[13] J. E. Lesslie Newbigin,  “ On being the Church in the World”, The parish Church? Exploration in the Relationship of the Church and the World (ed. G. Ecclestone; Oxford: Mowbray, 1988) 25-42


VISIBILITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE SHADOWS OF COVID-19- The case of the Anglican Church of Kenya

( this is part one of a two part series …)


Rev. Canon Francis Omondi




The coronavirus has exposed and exacerbated deep ecclesiastical problems in the identity and witness of the church. Measures to mitigate the pandemic has pushed our church, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), further into the downward spiral of shadowiness. For safety reasons, we have had to abstain from physical, public gathering. Not therefore, able to hear God’s word read or preached, and receive the sacrament, in a way we are used to. It has been unsettling.

The Church’s identity is fundamental to her visibility and therefore witness. Church’s visibility is the most powerful message the world can receive. A message the world can trust because it shows God present in our world. This visibility encourages and motivates the world to look at her attributes as a reflection of the God she represents. Tied to the Church of England, the ACK shares the identity of a diverse “fellowship of one visible society whose members are bound together by the ties of a common faith, common sacraments, and a common ministry”, as Bishops in Lambeth 1920 envisioned[1]. This has crystalized into the Anglican way of following Jesus in the world in the “fulness of Christian life, truth and witness.” The ACK is an integral part of the Anglican Communion[2], which binds her to the order and doctrine of the Anglican Church. But her context is different, demanding therefore a unique response to best enhance our visibility. Until the emergence of this global pandemic we have had little motivation to rethink and adjust our visibility in context.

Our moment of crisis confronts us with the question of whether our present ways can sufficiently guide us. Some consider the pandemic transient. They estimate the duration it would last, but ponder what we would find on the other side. Such will do everything to maintain our common life within our norms, allowing for as little as possible disrupt in the longer term. It is however clear that this crisis is monumental, and will force radical shifts in our society. The Malawi academic, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza Malawi makes a disturbing prediction of the grim future we face in his recent article[3]. He cites Mr. Kozul- Wright the Director of the Division on Globalisation and Development Strategies at UNCTAD who noted, “There’s a degree of anxiety now that’s well beyond the health scares which are very serious and concerning . . .the kind of meltdown that could be even more damaging than the one that is likely to take place over the course of the year”.

And peering into tomorrow’s world, from the depth of crisis, can the ACK seize the moment and readjust to better her visibility?

This paper examines the complications this global pandemic causes to the ACK as a case, in the worldwide church context. The issues are inter-related and the emerging ideas can apply across board. I intend to use Thomas Kuhn’s  paradigm shift theory as a framework to process this challenge, and a as signpost to guide the ACK in the direction we must take.

The epistemologist and historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, called scientific revolution a paradigm shift, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970). Science, described Kuhn, is a process characterised by pre-paradigmatic, normal and revolutionary patterns emerging from the interactions of its component scientists, what we would call complex adoptability system. According to Kuhn, a scientific revolution occurs when scientists encounter anomalies the prevailing paradigm cannot resolve within its scientific framework.

The paradigm, in Kuhn’s view, is not the current theory alone, but the entire worldview in which it exists, and all the implications which come with it. Kuhn acknowledges anomalies from all paradigms, but maintains that scientist accommodate them as acceptable levels of error, or better ignored. Rather, Kuhn notes that when enough or significant anomalies accrue against a current paradigm, the scientific discipline is thrown into a crisis. It is during such a crisis that fresh ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tested. A new paradigm established from this and gains its own new adherents, sparking an intellectual “battle” between the followers of this new paradigm and the remnants of the old.


In this paper, I address the following three questions the pandemic crisis presents to the visibility of the ACK:

  1. What challenges does the Pandemic crisis pose to the ACK way of following Christ?
  2. Is the ACK way of following Christ deep enough to ease the shocks the crisis poses to her visibility?
  3. What shifts in identity must ACK make to bolster her visibility?
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The Prevailing  Anglican Paradigm

The ACK Constitution of 2002 describes the church’s order of faith at length in Article III- On Doctrine and Worship. There are 14 provisions under this article that defines ACK position on following Christ. It is explicit from Article III (5) that the ACK Order of Faith aligns to that of the Anglican Churches worldwide:

The Church further accepts the Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888 which outlined the Anglican essentials for a reunited Christian Church. The text of the Articles is:

  1. a)              The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as “containing all

things necessary to salvation”, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

  1. b)             The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
  2. c)              The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
  3. d)             The Historic-Episcopate: locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

This affirmation, together with other teachings, laws and liturgical practices approved in this province and others we are in fellowship with, can in Kuhnian terms, be regarded the ACK’s paradigm. For at the core of Kuhn’s thoughts is the notion of “paradigms,” which are scientific theories or worldview unique enough to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity, and open-ended enough to leave many problems for the practitioners in the group to resolve. The ACK’s liturgical worldview and practice, drawing from the Book of Common Prayer (1662), and Our Modern Services (OMS) translated in several languages[4].

Anglicans believe that church is the visible body of Christ on earth. She manifests this notion in the Christians gathering together, in such a gathering is Christ present, and speaks his word, read out,  and or expounded. Christ is present, in the sacraments that link Christians mysteriously to him, and in the clergy as they administer sacraments, absolution and blessings[5].

Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have gathered together to bless, break and share bread and to bless and share a cup of wine in obedience to the Lord’s command, given on the night before He died, to ‘do this in remembrance of me. The Eucharist is what catholic Christians understand to be the most doxological act they can do when they gather for “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts” (1979 BCP:14 and also 2002 OMS:55). To hold such a service, there should be communicants other than the minister at every celebration of Holy Communion.  From the time of Thomas Cranmer, mainstream Anglicanism insisted that we celebrate the communion service as a community, with no fewer than two people. The Rubrics at the end of the BCP Communion office declare that ‘there shall be no celebration of the Lord’s Supper except there be a convenient number to communicate ’, which it defines to be ‘three at the least’ in a parish.

We anchor the importance of the Eucharist  in the church’s law. Along with Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, is a ‘Sacrament ordained of Christ’ (Article 25)[6] and ‘a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death’ (Article 28). For instance, the Canons of the Church of England teach the importance and centrality of the Eucharist. Canon B14 requires the celebration of the Holy Communion in at least one church in every benefice on all Sundays and principal Feast days, and on Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. Canon B15[7] teaches that it is the duty of all the confirmed, to receive the Holy Communion regularly, and especially at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.

Over time, many factors contributed to a general decline in the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday, well into the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Morning Prayer became the common service of worship on the Lord’s Day. ACK, a plant of Church Missionary Society (CMS) which was more evangelical low church did not place Eucharist as high in practice as the gathering of the Christians in worship. There are Anglicans who gather for corporate prayer without the Eucharist. According to Richard Hooker[8], Christians assembled for corporate prayer, take part in communion with Christ himself, “joined… to that visible, mystical body which is his Church.” Hooker understands the corporate prayer of Christians as having a spiritual significance far greater than the sum of the individual prayers of the individual members of the body. He had very much in mind the assembly of faithful Christians gathered for the Daily Office. Even, though, the Holy Eucharist is gaining acceptance, over Morning prayer, communion-wide as the principal act of worship on Sunday.

What Kuhn argues of Science, on being “rigorous and rigid” preparation that helps ensure the received beliefs are fixed in the student’s mind, can be said of this paradigm influencing our understanding of when the church gathers to worship, share the word and sacrament. For Scientists, Kuhn asserts, take monumental pains to defend the assumption that scientists know what the world is like. And that “normal science” will often suppress novelties which undermine its foundations. Research is therefore not about discovering the unknown, but a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education.

The Eucharist has therefore played a normative role and is a corporate, not a private act. It posits as intended to offer, according to the exhortations on the BCP service of Holy Communion, the people spiritual nourishment, “to feed on the banquet of that most heavenly food”, and to build up the body of Christ in love and fellowship. Christ ordained the sacrament to move and stir all men to fellowship, love and concord, argues Thomas Cranmer’s Treatise on the Lord’s Supper 1550, and to “strengthen and confirm our faith in him.” (Article 25)

The sacrament above all else signify Christ’s presence among us. They not only embody the reality to which they refer, but Christ’s presence given to us and received by faith.  Note that faith receives this presence and occurs when God’s people come together. In Anglican understanding, sacraments are signs that both point to and embody the things they refer to. They are both “sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace” (Article 25). They both direct our attention to the ascended body of Christ, yet they also make the ‘benefits of his passion’ available to us here and now.

 How Churches responded to COVID-19 Restrictions

The COVID 19 crisis presented us with an immense challenge in this paradigm. The civil authorities stopped the physical gathering of Christians in churches, and ecclesial authorities endorsed this. In response, the churches adjusted to the order but in a variety of ways to maintain visibility and witness.

Many churches switched to online service through internet platforms. Some turned to mass-media of radio and TV services. In doing this they continued the preaching of word of God and shared prayers. Others still who lived outside the internet and mass media orbit adjusted into the household and family worship sessions. They were home alone, but were sustained in the theological assurance of Christ’s presence in our times of need. So, in such crisis moments, people who wanted to draw closer to God, found connections through mass media and online platforms. They heard the word preached but had a challenge in celebrating the Eucharist. The sacraments are material, personal encounters. They do not exist in any other form, making it difficult to administer sacraments, such as the Eucharist, electronically. How can the Bread and wine in HD monitor, in a live-streamed Mass, make the Eucharist? In invoking the words of the institution, “the Celebrant is to hold it or lay a hand upon” the bread and the wine, there is no grey area, hence not permissible to consecrate the Eucharist at a distance.

Many parish churches, therefore, suspended the celebration of Holy Communion until they can meet together in person again. With this, ceased the practice of public Baptism for the duration of the restrictions placed upon church.

Spiritual Sacrament was an option that other churches took. We administer spiritual communion when a person desires to receive the Sacrament, but cannot eat and drink the Bread and Wine. The Celebrant is to assure this person the receipt of all the benefits of Communion, even though the person did not receive the Sacrament with the mouth (BCP:457). This enables the spiritual reception, by gazing at a celebration of the Eucharist, that is at the heart of the sacrament, even if physical partaking is not possible.

For others, the option of gazing was not workable. So, they advertised the communion service in the parish and among the congregation when they would celebrate Holy Communion in the priest’s home. This would take place with or without the presence of another member of that household. They furnished members with program and readings for the service and invited them to pray and read scriptures so that the service takes place within some kind of extended communal act of worship in that parish, even if dispersed, and does not become a private act of devotion. They had prepared some prayers for them to enable to take part in such a celebration.

In other communities, priests administered “drive-by communion”, where individuals drove through piking the communion emblems and drove away after a service. This presented a public health concern and further distort the essential link between a communal celebration and the culmination of that celebration in the reception of the Eucharistic Bread and Wine.

Priests also made personal delivery of communion to members in homes. In these cases, the priest celebrated the Mass on Sunday and consecrated all the bread to be taken to the parishioners. Then the priest (and a few Eucharistic ministers) went to people’s homes (having cleansed their hands and kept the envelopes in brand new zip lock blocks to avoid contamination). Depending on the size of your congregation, they applied the method for distributing the sacrament safely to people on Sundays in their homes.






There are anomalies for all paradigms, Kuhn maintained, which are brushed away as acceptable levels of error, or ignored and not dealt with. These responses exposed the immense anomalies accommodated within the Anglican paradigm. Although they solve the besetting problem, they provide solutions within the accepted norm, with some inconsistencies.

The most sacred feature of Christian gathering in the presence of Christ is the holy Eucharist, administered by the priest, and in the consecrated space. The Eucharists claims the actual presence of Christ and the reality of blessing in consuming the actual elements by a real congregation. One therefore draws sustained spiritual blessings because of frequent participation in such a service.

We though know that there are a variety of ways we can be in the presence of Christ and receive the blessings of real communion with him. There are Anglicans who rarely partake of communion for a variety of reasons, yet they are no fewer members of Christ’s Body because of it. We are living limbs and members of the Body of Christ wherever and however we gather. In making greater use of the Daily Office (prayer cycle) there may be an opportunity to recover aspects of our tradition that point to: the sacramentality of the scriptures, the efficacy of prayer itself, the holiness of the household as the “domestic church,” and the reassurance that the baptized are already and forever marked as Christ’s own.

Eucharists are physical elements consumed for partakers to derive spiritual virtue. Because the sacrament is “given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner”. (Article 28) So when a person cannot physically receive, their faith and love can still receive a strengthening by seeing. Even if not tasting or feeling the gifts of bread and wine that signify the body and blood of Christ, they can derive blessings from being present. It has always been our tradition that during communion no one is asked out. For those who are not taking of the communion could also gain significant benefit from those taking part.

Where physical gathering was not possible thus truncating one’s presence, an alternative is provided where the parishioners with a liturgy to do at home adapted from “Communion under Special Circumstances” (from the 1979 BCP:396-399), plus a bulletin and the lectionary readings. This is as Justin Martyr describes in his First Apology 65: “And when the presider has given thanks and all the people have assented, those called by us ‘deacons’ give to each one of those present to share the bread and wine and water over which thanks have been given thanks have been given, and they take [them] to those not present”.

Some churches, led by their priests, maintained the celebration of the Eucharist to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God. It is a sacrifice, offered to God out of a gift from God. An offering made to acknowledge God as the source of all blessings. Making the sacrifice the most fundamental expression of doxology to the God of the universe. In the Eucharist, therefore, we offer to God everything he has given to us in the emblems, ourselves as living and spiritual sacrifices, and in our verbal praise and thanksgiving, we offer God everything he gave us.  In return he gives us our greatest need Jesus himself. And we are to offer ourselves back to God in our living and in our dying to be the Body of Christ that we have received, and to show forth in our lives what we have received on our lips.

Do we make a genuine sacrifice in the Eucharistic action? Should we not be asking the Father to make our sacrifice one with the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ which, as Chrysostom reminds us, is inexhaustible? Jesus still pleads on our behalf as our great high priest and mediator on his heavenly throne in the majesty on high. Should this not be enough and pleasing to the Father?

Kuhn insists a current paradigm when significant anomalies have accrued against it would throw the scientific discipline into a state of crisis. Such a crisis would demand retooling. Again, Kuhn explains, “So long as the tools a paradigm supplies continue to prove capable of solving the problems it defines, science moves fastest and penetrates most deeply through confident employment of those tools. The reason is apparent. As in manufacture, so in science – retooling is an extravagance to be reserved for the occasion that demands it.” (1970:76)

A crisis that locks the sanctuary, separates the clergy from the flock, would dim our visibility and stifle our liturgical life. We need not ask in such moments which is or is not permissible of the sacraments, as observed Rowan Williams[9] that leads to a dead end. Rather, the question for us sacramental people he said, was not whether a practice was “right or wrong,” but “How much are we prepared for this or that liturgical action to mean?”

Since sacraments are actions that give new meaning to things the current questions about the way we worship in this time of radical physical distancing invites the question of our preparedness for a sacramental encounter to have an alternative meaning. We should rather ask “what are we prepared for it to signify”?

How shall we gather again after the period of suspension, during which we experienced the virtual church?

The attempts to keep in fellowship opened up alternative ways of gathering, the virtual meeting. Many Christians, who tuned in to online or mass media, now have multiple stations for gathering and connecting. It will be difficult to restore the pre-coronavirus mode. We have arrived at a liberalised worship space, and this Christians anonymity will increase than decrease. For the individual Christians will have greater control of what they receive. They will shutout any that do not meet their desire.

Churches with a tradition of keeping a list of members, forming the basis for their local church and denominations, will experience trouble in monitoring their members from wandering across the field. We frowned upon moving from one church to another and regarded it as a kind of “sin”. The virtual church now gives Christians anonymity and freedom to conceal the movements. People will belong to multiple congregations, and most probably become loyal to none.

Will our pastors and priests signify Christ’s presence among us anymore?  Or will Christians stay with their newfound ways of experiencing God, as was, during the sanctions?

We have had a clergy dependent way of following Christ. Pastors and priests have played a key role in lives of Christians beyond religions matters. Their role therefore had remained vital, even in the absence of sacraments, as during the coronavirus crisis. This is because the church gathers around its priest, who besides administering the sacraments, would pronounce the blessings, grant absolution of sins, would through preaching and teaching the word edify the flock. There is a sense in which the flock is realizing the access they have to God through Christ. The irony playing out during this Easter Season is the temple’s torn curtain. Through prayers and listening to God’s words alone, some are developing an increased intimacy with Christ present in their homes. While some through the experience in the Daily Office, morning and evening prayers have found meaning in the word’s ministry and prayer.

Suppose they lift the sanctions, would Christian opt for a continued non-physical sacrament experience?

Out of the coronavirus crisis emerged acts of personal delivery of communion to members in homes, drive in communion, and rekindled spiritual communion. Others fasted the holy communion since the lockdown. The deviation was necessary to protect neighbour and self from harm. It is possible that facing a prolonged threat, though allowed physical contact, many will prefer no-physical contact interactions? Taking communion to members’ homes may turn to be the norm and that would kill the purpose of gathered people. Some will be so accustomed to spiritual communion which they found exhilarating, that they will let the sacraments live up to their purpose, spiritual pointers.

Kuhn is explicit about this prospect for empirical observation of paradigms and revolutions in scientometric data: “if I am right that each scientific revolution alters the historical perspective of the community that experiences it, then that change of perspective should affect the structure of post-revolutionary textbooks and research publications.” (1970: xi,) There are observable movements away from the norms. ACK Christians realise that the sacraments and institutions that support their practice are symbolic enactments of processes of mind, heart and deed that could be expressed in other ways. They can encounter are Christ by Prayer, his word through internet and mass media, non-physical partaking of sacraments and faithfully be in sacred fellowship with the Catholic Apostolic Church of Christ.

Will these noticed changes in perspective spark a change in how we practice faith? Probably, it would take a more potent pandemic than coronavirus, or a more dramatic event in the church, or perhaps a jarring experience in the society to force us to move.


The final part will be continued next week …answering the question of what shifts ACK must make…


[1] Encyclical Letter; Resolution 9.1 and 9.3 Lambeth Conference 1920.

[2] The Anglican Communion is one of the world’s largest Christian communities. It has tens of millions of members in more than 165 countries around the globe. Anglicanism is one of the traditions or expressions of Christian faith. Others include Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Baptist.

The Communion is organised into a series of provinces and extra-provincial areas.  The provinces are subdivided into dioceses, and the dioceses into parishes.


[4] Article III (7) of the ACK Constitution 2002.

[5] See the explanation in Our Modern Services 2012: 49-50

[6] Articles of Religion: (Thirty-nine Articles of Faith) BCP p. 622

[7] Church of England Canons, Web-edition.

[8]  See also, William JT. Kirby makes an elaborate analysis of Richard Hooker’s doctrine , Lawes III 3:1.3, 4 in Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the University of Oxford
Trinity Term, 1987.

[9] Rowan Williams  ‘Is there a Christian Sexual Ethic?’, in Open to Judgement: Sermons and Addresses (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1994), p. 164 Google Scholar.


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