|Posted by St. Alban's Episcopal Church on March 5, 2020 at 5:10 PM|
As we continue to hear news about coronavirus COVID-19, I want to address how we at St. Alban’s can be best prepared. It is not at all in my nature to be alarmist, but I do think it is imperative to be proactive. I hope we can be thoughtful without being fearful. St. Alban’s is committed to healthy and hygienic practices. And given that flu is always a risk, it’s good to be attentive to hygiene anyway, particularly for the protection of those among us with weaker immune systems who are most at risk.
The Diocese of North Carolina recently issued some resources for churches seeking to be prepared for any large-scale outbreak of an infectious disease such as this coronavirus. Among the recommendations are the following guidelines:
If you are sick, please don’t come to worship or other church events! We will miss you, but it’s important to minimize the spread of germs by staying home when needed, particularly for the protection of the oldest, youngest, and immune-suppressed members of our congregation.
Shaking hands is one of the most common human behaviors we know. It is a sign of friendship, welcome, and community. But if you are uncomfortable shaking hands or hugging during the Passing of the Peace and/or during Coffee Hour, that’s ok. Waving, bumping elbows, or even bowing to one another is perfectly acceptable. Even if you’re a hugger like me, try to respect others’ needs and personal boundaries when requested.
Before and after shaking hands with others, remember to wash your hands (with soap and water for at least 20 seconds) if possible or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content. We have also equipped the nave and narthex with hand sanitizer. The clergy have hand sanitizer beside our chairs and will always use it prior to celebrating and distributing Holy Eucharist.
Speaking of Communion, I know many folks have questions about the hygiene of receiving wine from the chalice. There’s a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to the common cup and germs. Research has shown that sipping from the common cup with proper purificator procedure presents low risk. Intinction, thought by many to be a practice that reduces the risk of contagion, may actually increase such risk. Dipping the wafer into the wine may contaminate the wine with pathogens clinging to fingers, thus spreading contagion to others. Anyone who is concerned about the spread of germs via the chalice may choose to abstain from the wine. Receiving just one element is still a full Communion. If you are curious about this and want to learn more, here is an informative article by an Episcopal priest serving on the west coast: https://mailchi.mp/687aa6e2baa7/covid19-communion
Rest assured that the clergy, staff, and vestry will continue to monitor the news closely and make decisions or adapt our plans as best suits the situation at the time, so stay tuned. And please remember to pray for those currently experiencing the effects of this disease, and for those working to combat it.
Yours in Christ,