We all are aware of the new version of the Coronavirus, named COVID-19, which is showing up around the globe. Because it is a new virus, there is yet no vaccine for it, and the production of testing kits is ramping up to help health care professionals better diagnose those who fall ill from it. Naturally, there is concern about what this could mean for our churches.
In this message is information that is intended as resources for you and your parish. In situations such as this, we always want to find a balance between under- and over-reaction. We believe thoughtful and informed leadership will be one of the greatest resources.
As with most viruses, the most common admonition is for people to wash their hands frequently and correctly. This PDF from the World Health Organization demonstrates the most effective handwashing technique – and it takes at least as long as the recommended 20 seconds. This is important because proper handwashing disrupts the outer coating of the COVID-19 virus, which disables the virus itself.
Hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60 percent can be used in place of soap and water, if necessary. Just be sure to use a dollop at least the size of a dime and rub your hands until they are dry.
Other common-sense things we all should be doing:
- When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or cough or sneeze into the elbow of your sleeve. This will help keep the droplets that can carry the virus away from other people.
- Stay home if you are feeling ill.
- Wipe with a disinfectant any frequently touched items, including door knobs, telephone receivers and cell phones.
Finally, this presents an opportunity for every parish to develop a plan in the event an illness would spread to the point of disrupting normal life. I hope every congregation begins to think through such a plan.
Additional information about dealing with CoVid-19 is available from these sources:
- Episcopal Relief & Development Disaster Planning
- The Centers for Disease Control
- World Health Organization
- Kansas Department of Health and Environment
You will find below some precautionary recommendations about distributing communion. I will remind you of the long-held Anglican theological understanding that receiving communion in one kind is receiving a full communion.
May God bless the clergy and people of this diocese as we seek to be faithful and wise followers of our risen Lord in this day.
The Right Reverend Cathleen Chittenden Bascom
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas
What about taking communion? Is it safe?
Studies have shown that being in church, interacting with parishioners and receiving Communion constitute only minimal health risks.
According to the American Journal of Infection Control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for more than two decades, have stated that there is no documented transmission of any infectious disease that ever has been traced to the use of a common communion cup.
However, there are some common sense precautions that not only will protect worshippers but will help allay normal fears.
- Clergy and servers should wash their hands. Clergy, Eucharistic ministers, acolytes and anyone else handling communion elements should wash their hands (or use hand sanitizer) immediately before distributing communion and again afterward. Hand washing and use of sanitizer should be done according to the guidelines outlined above.
- Rotate and firmly wipe the chalice. Those administering the chalice should be certain to rotate the cup at least a quarter-turn after each communicant and to wipe the inside and outside of the chalice rim firmly with a purificator. Use fresh purificators frequently, and wash soiled linens in hot, soapy water.
- Intinction cautions. Studies have shown that the greatest risk of contamination during communion comes when worshippers intinct for themselves. To minimize risk, I am suggested that during this time that only the clergy or Eucharistic minister dip wafers into the chalice. Care should be exercised to place the wafer on the communicant’s tongue without touching the tongue or mouth.
- Communion in one kind. Worshippers should also know that if they are concerned about receiving the wine, communion in one kind – bread only – is a full communion.
- At the Peace. If you have been sick, please be cautious about shaking hands. A verbal greeting, nod of the head or a wave are acceptable ways of sharing the peace of the Lord with other worshippers.
- Make hand sanitizer available. Churches may wish to make hand sanitizing gel available to worshippers. Use before receiving communion will reduce the risk of infection, also.
The dean of Grace Cathedral, Topeka, the Very Rev. Torey Lightcap, shares a few additional practices that they are taking, which may be helpful.
- At Grace Cathedral, germs don’t stand much of a chance. Our current communion wine is 12 percent alcohol, administered from a silver chalice wiped after each administration with a single-event purificator that has itself been moistened with a distilled 40 percent alcohol base.
- In some cases it may be advantageous not to allow the bread to touch the hand of the communicant at all. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, starting with Sunday, March 8, we will offer an “intinction station” on the lectern (east) side floor communion station and simply see whether people choose to take advantage of it. Those who do will be given both bread and wine at once by the same person.