Saturday, 7 March 2020

Coronavirus and good practice at Holy Communion

Hopefully most of you have already read the previously shared advice from the Church of England regarding Holy Communion at this time of fears over Coronavirus Covid-19.

The Church’s official advice has not moved much further though it has suggested that clergy “may take a view” about the need for further restrictions in administering the sacrament. Our own bishop has gone further: “If locally you decide to operate an even tighter regime that will be understandable but to operate anything less than the national guidance would be deeply unwise.”

I’ve been following official lines of advice and listening to people locally. I think that it’s important that it’s more than about me taking a personal view. I’ve listened to people’s fears and noted that there have been cases already where people have stepped back from receiving the chalice. I note that in our neighbouring diocese the Bishop of Newcastle has written to all her clergy recommending that the use of the shared chalice be discontinued, and that the shaking of each others’ hands at the Peace should also be stopped for the moment. In the end I conclude that this is the best course of action in delaying and mitigating the spread of infection.

From Sunday (8th March) holy communion at the Eucharist at St Cuthbert’s will be administered in the form of the Body of Christ (the consecrated bread) only. The Church has always taught that Holy Communion is received in its fullness even if just one kind is received (i.e. Christ is present for us fully in either the consecrated bread or the consecrated wine). So while the chalice will be used, only the priest will receive from it.

At the sign of the peace we ask people not to shake hands but to turn and greet those around them with a smile / eye contact and the words ‘peace be with you.’

Tea and coffee will be served as usual after worship. Soap and water also available in the Hall!
At present it’s clear what is dominating the news. I hope our response will be not one of fear but responsibility. If you’re well, don’t let it put you off coming to church – don’t let it put you off doing other things which are part of a normal life! We encourage those coming to church to wash their hands thoroughly before coming. You might wish to carry hand sanitising gel. We’ll try to get it in place at the church doors in due course – but it’s not in stock in the shops I’ve been in recently. However, we have it at the altar and I shall be using it as recommended before the Eucharistic prayer and the administration of Holy Communion.

I hope this is helpful. We’ve had precisely the same practice with regard to the Peace and not receiving the chalice during the swine flu outbreak. We hope to return to normal practice as soon as possible.

Let’s be healthy and holy!

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