Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Eucharist, Flu, and Common Sense

The following info was sent out to clergy in the Diocese of South Dakota from a priest and health nurse on the Rosebud Reservation. I think it is the most helpful advice I have heard so far:

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I am the Point of Contact for the H1N1 response here at Rosebud., and have been researching the guidelines for faith-based organizations. (Incidentally, there is an excellent guide on www.flu.gov for faith and community based organizations, and I would recommend all clergy/vestries take a look at it). I have looked at Bunker's guidelines, and most of them are sound. The Church of England has discontinued the common chalice until further notice, but Bunker is right in saying that the research shows less risk with this than with intinction. We have already introduced the use of hand sanitizer at the altar, but have not placed hand sanitizer at the back of the church for cultural reasons. In talking with some of the elders, having hand sanitizer at the back of the church might be considered offensive to some people. We also have not stopped passing the peace in the "usual" way, as hand shaking is a strong cultural norm. I have let people make their own decision as to how they will pass the peace. As far as wiping the chalice, I would add the recommendation that the chalice bearers not only wipe the rim and turn the chalice each time, but that they use all of the purificator, not just the same part over and over again--that is, turn it around, open it, refold it, turn it inside out, etc. to present a clean portion as often as possible. Also, until the flu pandemic is over, use heavy metal chalices rather than ceramic--silver is best, as it is naturally antimicrobial. Unless you are celebrating the Eucharist at an alcohol retreat or treatment facility, use alcoholic wine rather than the non-alcoholic version.
However, the number one rule is--if you are sick, stay home! This includes worship and other church activities. And this includes the clergy. Get both your seasonal and H1N1 immunizations once they are available. Practice good health in nutrition, adequate rest, and stress management. Frequent hand washing, use of alcohol-based sanitizers, and coughing into your sleeve or into a tissue rather than into your hand will also help prevent the spread of flu.
The Reverend Judy Spruhan
Public Health Nurse, Rosebud Indian Health Service

1 comment:

The Archer of the Forest said...

Judy references a previous e-mail, which I thought was a bit overly cautious, that sent out the diocese earlier, which follows here:
-The Archer
(PS...yes, the priest's name is really Bunker Hill)
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From Church of All Angels, Spearfish newsletter (Oct 2009). Thanks to the Very Rev. Bunker Hill

I am concerned, as I’m sure that you are, about the possibility of a Swine Flu pandemic. To avoid an epidemic of panic, I’m offering guidelines which are consistent with current CDC guidelines for contact during worship and especially around the Holy Eucharist.

Come to Church!

Get shots for Swine Flu and regular flu. As long as you feel well, continue to worship as usual. Wash your hands frequently and if you sneeze cover your mouth with your sleeve. Stay home if you or a family member gets sick.

The Holy Water Font

* The font will be replaced by a Hand Sanitizer Dispenser. Please use it as you enter.
* The Baptismal Font will have fresh blessed water for those wishing to use it.

The Passing of the Peace

* A handshake is not mandated by the Church, and is discouraged during this time.
* Continue to verbally share the Peace, making eye contact, slightly bowing your head, or a friendly wave are good substitutes for the traditional handshake or hug.

The Holy Eucharist

* It is not necessary to receive “in both kinds” – both bread and wine – in order to make a full communion. A worshipper’s individual health needs may preclude taking either the bread or the wine.
* The Common Cup – Medical experts agree that the danger of transmitting communicable diseases by sharing the chalice is negligible. History has borne this out, and we still highly encourage this ancient liturgical practice.
* Chalice bearers – be sure to wipe the rim of the cup and turn it after each person is served.
* Intinction (dipping the bread into the cup), however, poses a greater potential threat, especially when the bread is handled with unwashed hands. Therefore, we discourage this practice during this period. No fingers in the cup! Anyone wishing to receive by intinction will receive bread intincted by the Celebrant.
* The Celebrant and the Chalice bearers will have their own hand sanitizer at the Altar to use before the administration of communion, and thereafter as needed.

As long as we all use common sense we will be fine. We will offer prayers for all those who fall ill, and we will continue to monitor the situation and revise these recommendations as needed.