Clarifying the grammar of cyber-Eucharist: an inquiry into 'presence' as a condition for online celebrations of the Eucharist

Ryan Turnbull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the onset of COVID-19, regular church gatherings around the world ceased in an effort to avoid gatherings where the virus could spread. Very quickly, worship moved online, and soon, questions about the propriety of various cyber liturgies began to surface across denominations. This paper looks at the practice of cyber Eucharist, first by situating the debate within Anglican liturgical theology and offering insights from digital theologians about the broader history of online liturgical practice. Within the Anglican context, controversy around the adoption of cyber Eucharistic practices centers around questions of place and presence. This paper interrogates the spatial logic of various understandings of the Eucharist and suggests that cyber Eucharists can fulfill the requirements of these logics by acknowledging that there is no stark divide between "cyberspace" and "physical space", rather we live in the hybridity of "cybernetic space" Ultimately, this paper argues that, insofar as we can understand the Eucharist as a speech-act, different ecclesial communities will require different felicity conditions to be in place in order for the practice of cyber Eucharist to be well received, and that some Eucharistic theories will be more and less amenable to its adoption. In the case of Anglicanism, this paper argues that a version of cyber Eucharist known as "spiritual communion" should be acceptable at this point in the liturgical understanding of the church.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-57
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Theology
  • digital theology
  • Liturgy
  • COVID - 19
  • Eucharist


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