Bringing Communion to the Sick & Dying

Should elders bring and take communion with members who (legitimately) can’t make it to church?

I don’t have a bone to pick on this particular issue, just trying to think it through.

It came up because I got into an argument with a few friends of ours. They wanted to take communion together with my wife and I, I said no because of there was no authority present (i.e. fencing the table and none of us are elders (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:6)), and because of the bread being a picture of the local body, and thus the tacit excommunication of the rest of the body when doing it in a small subset of the main gathering (1 Corinthians 10:17).

So now I’m thinking through the issue. It’s my understanding that in the early church they would bring communion to those who could’ve be there (not that the practices of the early church should be our guide for everything!).

Anyway, would appreciate your thoughts, brothers.


Though I am not ordained and therefore ordinarily cannot distribute communion, I came from a Bible/baptist church, and had while there begun conducting a worship service and serving communion on the Lord’s day to mostly shut-ins at a retirement home. When I transferred my membership to my current CREC church, they allowed me to continue this practice, as they were commissioning me for jail ministry, and full elders were unable ordinarily to make it there to the retirement home where I ministered. Covid helped this opportunity and practice cease, as my responsibilities increased to the point where it was impractical during the shutdown at the retirement home. I present this case as a fringe case, not normative at all, but in the judgment of my elders acceptable for the duration.


Yes, I think so. When I have been involved in doing so with congregants who are shut-ins and those who have been too ill to attend for a lengthy period of time, it has been a great blessing for them to be able to participate in the Lord’s Supper, to be a part of the Communion that it entails - both vertically and horizontally.

Although, interestingly enough, I know of 2 elderly members who were unable to attend anymore due to health reasons who declined when the elders asked if they would like to take the Lord’s Supper. They were too uncomfortable with the thought of taking it outside the rest of the body.

This is a good point, and you are correct that taking Communion in a small subset as a general practice violates 1 Corinthians 10:17, which is why my church’s general practice when serving the Lord’s Supper to those not able to attend regularly is for (at least) 2 elders to visit on the same Sunday the rest of the congregation took the Lord’s Supper and distribute the elements to the congregant. This at least attempts to maintain some unity of the body in taking Communion.


Thank you, brothers, your responses are helpful!

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@kylegrindberg, I think your response to your friends was spot on, and your reasoning was good.

Yes, I think the churches here in Evangel Presbytery would be willing to do the same.

From what you’ve said so far, I don’t think I could agree with the practice. Retirement home ministry and jail ministry are both great things, but I don’t see how communion is appropriate in either context unless you’re talking about people who are, in some sense, part of the body you represent. If someone had been regularly attending our church, and he had since gone to the retirement home, and the elders believed he was fit for communion, then I could see it being appropriate for a couple elders to take him communion there. It would be similar to the practice that Jesse described above.

But, again, communion is about relationships horizontally and vertically. They both have to be there. And that’s tough when you’re talking about either a retirement home or, even more difficult, jail.


Communion in the case of a shut in would also include the necessary preaching of the word, in a way appropriate for the context.


I hear you. In jail I am not authorized to baptize or bring the sacraments.

Thanks, that’s encouraging.

My friend’s wife was livid, and apoplectically began to the question me. Pastor Tim Bayly hits the nail on the head about people despising the idea of authority. Looking back on the conversation, it’s very interesting how similar her reasonings were to Korah’s "You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (Numbers 16:3).

Wow, I hadn’t thought of the “word” part of the “word and sacrament” in the context of ministry to shut-ins, that’s really good. Thanks.


Would it be possible for someone in jail or in a nursing home to join a church that they weren’t already a part of before they were shut away?

I suppose it would be possible, but it would be difficult. I would think the church, from elders and pastors to other volunteers in the church, would need to visit pretty regularly.

I would think there’s a category difference between continuing to minister to a member who has gone into a nursing home and ministering to someone who has gone to jail (or has come to faith either in a nursing home or a jail).

I’ve felt guilty not adding to this discussion, but for what it’s worth, here are my convictions. In my first call, I had tons of funerals and nursing home visit because my flocks had lots of older folk. We didn’t make a habit of communing those in the nursing homes and shut-ins, but maybe two or three times a year I would go with several elders and my wife (maybe) and a family member of the shut-in and give them communion. We always tried to have a tiny “congregation” and a short homily from God’s Word. Today we have not had a need for such communing of invalids for many years, but I would not hesitate to do the same here, if it were needed. And yes, I know this practice tends to indicate sacramentalist doctrine on the part of those who do it. And no, I am not a sacramentalist—should any reader wonder. Love,


Speaking as one who is not an elder, but may one day be a member of a long-term care facility:

I would greatly appreciate having the opportunity to participate with the church in any way possible.

The first thing to address is the legitimacy of long-term care facilities. The whole point is moot if children are caring for their parents, as they should be. That’s what my mother and uncle did for their father, but it should be pointed out this was in the home where he had lived for 50+ years. While it was difficult for them, it brought much peace to my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s-riddled mind. My grandfather was a physically healthy man; his body would have easily lasted until he was 100, and he was still helping cut wood at age 94. Living in the familiar patterns of life was good for him.

I realize many people need specialized care, and not everybody can look after elderly parents. However, it’s a good thing to prepare our children to take care of us when we are dotard.


As one tempted to the sacramentalism error, if I come to the point where I would have to live in a nursing home, I don’t think I would insist on receiving the elements. I might actually request they not be brought.

Fellowship with the brethren is the main thing. I would appreciate visits.

Easy for me to say now. But from a love your neighbor standpoint, if it were me, I would not insist on it.

The sacraments belong to the church, not to me. It makes sense to me that if you can’t make it to the assembly, you don’t receive sacraments.

This matter of private communion is yet another area where the fighters of tyrants in Idaho have a peculiar practice, against that of the whole rest of the Reformed church across history. When you think of who holds sway over them in matters of worship (Jordan, Leithart), it makes sense.


I still haven’t looked too much into that whole wing of the CREC being “reformed Catholics”. While technically holding to Presbyterianism, it seems they are essentially Anglican. It seems that Presbyterianism does allow for a wide variety of worship styles, however.