Friday, October 09, 2009

Fears of Contagion Change Church Practices

Lauren Winner writes in today's Wall Street Journal that Swine Flu Spells the End of the Common Cup. When I saw the headline I immediately remembered how horrified Babs (my little Presbyterian) was when we attended the opening worship service for entering freshmen at All Saints Chapel at Sewanee and she was offered a common cup. She like to died!

Winner notes in her article that the chaplain at Sewanee continues to use the common cup but no longer allows communicants to dunk the bread pieces in the cup on the theory that the mouth has fewer germs than the hand. That would not have mollified Babs, who decamped to a Presbyterian students' group when Eastern Tennessee presbytery made a retired Sewanee professor a Commissioned Lay Pastor for a ministry to Presbyterian students and friends. And I have to admit that I'm not a fan of the common cup, either.

Although Presbyterians have a long tradition of using what Winner calls "shot glasses" -- don't you love it?--rather than the common cup, even we are making some changes in response to concerns about H1N1 (the politically correct term for swine flu).

World communion Sunday last week saw us using both shot glasses and pre-cut pieces of bread. I didn't think about it at the time, but that was obviously a response to H1N1 because we usually tear bread off a loaf and dunk it.

Another change came at the end of the service when the pastor usually asked the congregation to hold hands as he delivers the benediction. Although a number of people continued that tradition, he didn't mention it.

In our Bible Study Discussion groups we traditionally hold hands for intercessory prayer and we haven't changed that custom. If someone has a cold, they just excuse themselves and we count it as a "virtual" hand-holding.

If you ask me, the biggest center of contagion is in the church nursery where parents will often bring a sick child that they wouldn't dream of sending to school. I assume churches are being more careful about this as well, but don't know for sure because I don't have children or grandchildren in nursery care these days.

Has your church made changes in liturgy or practice in response to fears of spreading flus of any type?


Althea N. Agape said...

change?!?! Who? us? not on your life. :)

ellbee said...

I was at church Sunday feeling fine, but by Wednesday was in the Dr's office getting a confirmation that my Boy and I had THE Flu.
My first contact was the SS director to let the families in the HS class know.

Having done the Sunday hug with many of our members this week, some of whom would fall into a higher risk category, I wondered if there was a way to let people know they may have been exposed... and what to watch for. Our church has nothing in place.

Any ideas?

Songbird said...

We changed our Communion routine from having the elements passed (which included the little cups for juice, and a choice between pre-cut bread and a broken loaf for self-tearing) to intinction. Instead of having people tear and dunk their own piece, the pastors did it for them, then handed it to them. We somewhat conspicuously used hand sanitizer just as the Communion Hymn was starting, in case people were worried. (By somewhat conspicuously I mean that Senior Pastor used it then pumped it for me when I was expecting him to pass me the whole thing, so some got on the rug, and he pumped again.)

RevDi said...

Although an older entry, the subject is still timely. I am filling in for a minister who is recovering from double lung transplant so we are VERY aware of his zero tolerance to germs. We have installed wall mounted hand sanitizer dispensers around the church -- outside nursery, kitchen, his office and by water fountain. We have eliminated the Passing of the Peace (for now) from worship. We fist-bump greetings to one another. I still shake hands and hug at the door as folks exit -- which may be why I am at home with a cold!