You will all be aware of the media coverage surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 viral infection, commonly referred to as “coronavirus”. This is a ‘flu-like’ virus, which progresses in some people to a more serious ‘pneumonia-like’ stage. The situation is being closely monitored and even though some of the reports can sound alarming we should be concerned at this point, but not alarmed.
Our priority at this time is to protect those around us by taking sensible, proportionate precautions to prevent the spread of infection.
The Church of England has updated its advice today (02/03/20). Whenever this advice changes we will let you know how it affects church life and services. The national advice at the moment is that in general it is safe to continue to distribute and receive Holy Communion in both kinds (both the bread and the wine).
However, the advice is also clear that the practice of intinction (dipping the bread in the chalice and then receiving both bread and wine together) increases the risk of passing on infection. We are therefore now asking that intinction stops in our churches so that together we protect those who are most vulnerable to infection. It is the only way of receiving communion for which there is some evidence that it transmits infection and disease. This is really important to understand, because sometimes it is mistakenly suggested that intinction is more hygienic than sharing the cup, when the reality is that it is less hygienic.
From today we are asking communion assistants not to offer the cup for intinction. If this troubles you, please speak to one of the clergy and we will do our best to address your concerns.
It is perfectly correct, theologically, pastorally and liturgically to receive in one kind only – to receive just the bread. When we receive both the bread and the wine, the symbolism is fuller, but the action of receiving communion is complete even when we receive just the bread (or just the wine). This is called the doctrine of concomitance: Christ is fully present in both the bread and the wine.
If you are suffering with coughs and sneezes, please receive only the bread. If for any reason you would prefer, at this time, not to receive from the chalice, you are entirely welcome to make that choice yourself.
If the national advice about receiving from the chalice changes, we will let you know and will change what we do accordingly.
Sharing the Peace
At the moment the national advice is that we can continue to share the peace in churches. Clergy and communion assistants will be asked to use alcohol gel after the Peace, before continuing with the service or assisting with the chalice.
If you are suffering with coughs and sneezes, please greet those around you at the Peace as usual, but don’t shake hands. We should all be sensitive to how those around us may feel at this time – if anyone around us doesn’t want to shake hands at the Peace, or at other times, we shouldn’t take offence.
Ways you can help
- If you start feel unwell or have flu-like symptoms you should stay at home and consult either NHS111 or your GP.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue and bin it.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.
If you have recently returned from a part of the world where there has been an outbreak of coronavirus, or you know you have been in contact with a person who is suspected of having coronavirus, and you start to feel unwell, you should follow the guidance available nationally on self-isolation. Keep an eye on the national guidance – even if you do not have any obvious symptoms you may still be infected and potentially contagious.
Please be attentive to the general advice above, especially about hand washing. If you are making coffee or serving food at church events this is really important.
Please also, as should be normal at this time of year, be particularly careful if you are visiting someone who is vulnerable because of age, illness or pre-existing condition. If you are ill, please do not make others unwell by visiting. We also need to be careful people don’t become isolated, so maintaining contact by phone may be an alternative, but do not expose others, or yourself, to unnecessary risk or infection.
If any of the clergy become unwell, especially if they suspect they may have coronavirus, they will not be in church or be available to visit you. If staff or volunteers become ill, this could mean that things change at short notice. At this stage, only mild precautions are necessary and there is no need to be overly concerned. If things change, information will be provided via the Team website and through social media.
With my thanks and prayers,
The Revd Helen Dawes, Team Rector
2nd March 2020