Holy Communion stained glass home2romeFollowing up on a post from August regarding intinction and another with regard to the 1547 Sacrament Act, I have found more information on how other Anglican priests are distributing Holy Communion to their congregants during the swine flu scare.

The following are excerpts with my explantatory notes and highlights taken from a short but fine post on Fr Hunwicke’s Liturgical Notes entitled, simply, ‘Swine Flu’:

Fr Hunwicke: ‘I have implemented: Communion in the hand; Communion in one kind; discontinuance of the use of the Holy Water stoups [fonts]; and during the Sanctus at Sunday Mass I surreptitiously rub the thumb and forefinger of my right hand with an alcoholic gel.’ 

Fr Steve: ‘If you use wine, wine is an alcohol. Intinction might be best, and if you have a problem with consuming what’s left, dig a hole in your cemetery and dispose of it.’

The Right Revd Peter D Robinson: ‘Communion in one kind into the hand is acceptable for the time being. However, Communion should continue to be offered in both kinds but communicants should drink from the chalice, not intinct. The chalice is wiped and turned slightly after each communicant. The high ABV (15%-18%) of most communion wines should take care of any virus present. Any communicant who wishes not to receive the Cup should cross his/her arms over the chest after receiving the host.

‘Communion by Intinction should be discontinued for the time being. This is the second least sanitary way of administering communion. Only leavened bread, “wee cuppies” and grape juice are worse.

‘Keep the number of people handling the elements down to a minimum. For the time being the celebrant should prepare the vessels and elements for the Eucharist, and/or the altar guild make generous use of hand sanitizer or soap and hot water.’

Fr Richard Evans: Public health specialists in Birmingham and Coventry [England] have advised that the use, or non-use, of the common chalice would have no affect on the spread of swine flu. This is based upon the level of spread of the disease in the general population and the fact that the risk of exposure is through normal contact (ie, a person sitting in a church with an infected person during a service would spread the disease, regardless of whether Communion was taken).

I believe Fr Evans’s is the best comment, as it is supported by the NHS in Birmingham and Coventry: there is no need to dispense with the Cup — continue to use it.  The reaction of Fr Hunwicke, a learned man, surprises me, particularly as he adds in his introduction: ‘I am too young to die.’  As a layperson, I have never been afraid of receiving this holiest of Sacraments, regardless of what bugs are in the air or on my neighbour.  Why would a priest?

My view is supported by two commenters, one on Fr Hunwicke’s blog, johnf, who says:

I don’t know how the Catholic Church survived the flu pandemics of 1918, 1957, 1968 not to speak of the minor one of 1947, when receiving of Our Blessed Lord by mouth was then the only means available.

I don’t think it even occured to people that Holy Communion by mouth could be a cause of transmission.

And I dont think people were ignorant of modes of transmission of diseases in those days.

So I believe we are overreacting – the spirit of the age I suppose.

and an excellent comment on my post about the Sacrament Act from Gabriella:

Do we really believe that Holy Water is a divine reminder of our baptism and a sacramental that can heal the spiritually and physically sick, and do we believe that the ‘wine in the chalice’ is the Precious Blood of Christ? And, do we decline these gifts out of fear or indifference?

Our saintly missionaries were not afraid to catch leprosy when they set out to help and cure these people.

Should we really deny ourselves the Blood of Christ and Holy Water because we are afraid of what we might catch … ?

Yes, we are overreacting.  We — whether priests or laypeople — need to remind ourselves of the Divine Presence of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And to think that churches are emptying their stoups — it’s absurd. So, many people today would run a mile because of a hyped-up scare over flu. Which would mean that flu trumps Holy Communion? What a bunch of ‘believers’!