Bishop Russell: Concerns About Contagious Diseases in Churches: Care to Help Ensure Good Health
We are all following the news of increasing concerns about the possible spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. While we don’t want to over-react, we do not want to underestimate the potential of this situation. As such, please remember the following practices for hygiene to minimize the risk of contagious diseases in churches. Here are some simple things you can do to help everyone:
IF YOU ARE NOT FEELING WELL (EVEN A LITTLE BIT), STAY HOME You are not helping anyone by arriving at church with a cold or the flu to tough it out. Clergy or lay ministers can bring the sacraments to shut-ins and/or provide pastoral care by phone as appropriate. Substitutes can be found for Sunday ministries.
IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO GET YOUR FLU SHOT While many are worried about the COVID19 virus spreading, this is already a bad flu season. If people have not gotten a flu vaccine, there’s still time before the expected second wave of seasonal flu infections.
CONGREGATIONAL PRACTICES Congregations may take modest steps to limit the spread of any illness. When celebrating the Eucharist or distributing the elements, use hand sanitizer visibly and have hand sanitizer available for worshippers to use. Reiterate to Eucharistic Ministers the importance of the use of a purificator and wiping the chalice after each communicant. Pass the peace with a nod and a smile, a fist bump, an elbow tap, or another sign that avoids close physical contact. Remind coffee hour and feeding program volunteers to wash their hands and handle food with plastic gloves or utensils. Avoid intinction - the dipping of the bread into the wine - even by celebrants or communion-administrators. Intinction is not a sanitary substitute for drinking from the chalice. Intinction risks possibly unclean hands being dipped in the wine and is thus an infection transmission route. It also creates risk for those with certain allergies. There is little evidence of risk of disease associated with the shared communion cup, but each communicant must make up their own minds about its use. Provide plenty of soap and paper towels in restrooms and kitchens.
PRAY Include petitions in your prayers of the people for those who are sick across our world, and those who care for them:
O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity: Be present in your goodness with your servants that their weakness may be banished and their strength restored; and that, their health being renewed, they may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~The Book of Common Prayer, p. 458
Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~The Book of Common Prayer, p. 460
If the situation worsens, we will offer additional guidelines and recommendations to our common practices. For now, be mindful, be careful, and be prayerful. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
In this time, and at all times, may we be instruments of God’s peace,