Flu Precautions at St. John's Church
With the news of the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the media, there are many at St. John’s expressing concern about how we can be faithful to our practice in church and also avoid the spread of illness. The news about COVID-19 coincides with a flu season that has been more challenging than in previous years. Our first caution is to remind our members that flu vaccines are still widely available and are an important precaution in keeping healthy in the flu season.
We at the church are committed to faithfulness in the midst of this season, along with the practice of abundant caution.
Some have voiced concern about the eucharistic practice of sharing a common cup, while others have concerns about the possible contagious effects of sharing the peace.
The altar guild, Lay Eucharistic Ministers, and Clergy are and will continue to exercise great caution as we minister at the altar. Before church, Mary Beth and I will be certain to wash our hands thoroughly and use anti-bacterial soap. Lay Eucharistic Ministers will be reminded to use best practices for wiping the chalice after each communicant. Of interest, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control has suggested that sharing communion is not a significant vector of disease transmission due to the nature of the vessels used. In their research, they also discovered that intinction (the practice of dipping the bread in the wine) presents a higher likelihood of transmitting illness than sipping from the cup.
But, all of us understand that, in this time of heightened caution, some parishioners might rather receive communion bread without the wine, or just a blessing. We remind all of our parishioners that receiving the bread alone without the wine is a long-standing practice in many churches and is a means of grace equal to the reception of both bread and wine. See the note from the Bishop about the theology of receiving in one kind only.
The peace is an ancient part of our Eucharistic Practice following confession, but the gesture associated with sharing God’s peace has changed over time. In some places a kiss of peace is used, in others, a solemn bow between parishioners is the traditional manner of exchanging God’s peace. I encourage you to consider how you might communicate God’s love, peace, and joy without contact in this flu season - perhaps through the use of loving smile and bowing gesture.
The Bishop's office has provided guidelines for parishes and clergy in the midst of these concerns - see the Bishop's direction here.
We look forward to being with you this Sunday as we begin our Lenten journey together.
Some Suggested Precautions:
- Influenza of all types is dangerous, and studies show that vaccines help to limit the seriousness and duration of illness. Consider getting vaccinated for the flu if you have not been already.
- If you are feeling ill, consider staying home from church until you are feeling better. The clergy and our Caring Connection ministers are always happy to make visits to infirm parishioners and bring them the greetings, love and joy of our community. Communion at home is also available. To make arrangements for such a visit contact the clergy directly.
- Consider exchanging the peace without contact in a manner that honors the intention of sharing in God’s love, peace and joy.
- Intinction (dipping) is less hygienic than drinking from the common cup. Receiving the bread alone avoids concerns about sharing the cup and is an equal means of grace as receiving both bread and wine.
- Rigorous handwashing for at least 20 seconds has been shown to be effective in reducing likelihood of transmitting illness.