March 4, 2020
Many of you have contacted me this week regarding the need for greater caution regarding the potential for sharing the flu virus and disease. While we have no reason for alarm, it does seem wise to take steps to protect one another and encourage confidence so that everyone can attend services. Hospitality is such an important part of our life and ministry at St. Barnabas. Celebrating the Eucharist and Passing the Peace are foundational parts of our worship experience. So let me suggest a few modifications that might help us continue these practices.
We pass the peace or greet one another at the door to welcome each other in God’s name and to celebrate our unity in Christ. A handshake or hug is not mandated by the church and discouraged at this time. We can still engage in hospitality with a smile, a nod and “The Lord be with you.” If someone extends a hand and you do not wish to receive it, simply smile and say, “I’m shaking hands with my eyes today.” We are all in agreement that we can continue to be a welcoming community in a hands-free environment.
As for our Eucharist, as of this week, on the advice of health professionals and our diocese, we are suspending the use of intinction (dipping the bread into the cup). Despite what we may think, intinction does little to avoid the spread of disease and may actually increase the spread, as the hand is dipped into the cup. On the other hand, because of the alcohol, the silver cup, and the linen, there is little evidence of risk associated with drinking from the common cup, but of course, each parishioner must make up their own minds about its use. The Church’s ancient teaching is that the whole Christ is received whether one receives only consecrated bread or both bread and wine. Abstaining from the bread may also be your choice, and you are invited to come forward for a blessing.
You should also know that those of us serving at the altar wash our hands thoroughly before the service, and use hand sanitizer before blessing the elements. And as you know, our best protection to avoid infection is to wash our hands and not touch our faces, and to stay home when we feel ill. When we gather, even with a hands-free hospitality, we can smile, welcome each other, and respect each other’s needs and preferences. Hand sanitizer is also available in the narthex.
Remember: there is no crisis – just increased need for caution and we will continue to monitor this situation carefully. We pray for all those dealing with the flu season, this virus and the health-care workers who are working to keep us safe. We believe that gathering for corporate worship as the body of Christ is an integral part of healthy living. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1). I look forward to seeing you this Sunday as we continue our Lenten journey.
Grace and peace,