Don't share wine cup, churches told
COMMUNION wine from chalices is no longer being shared among parishioners as churches battle the swine flu pandemic.
Advice from the Diocese of Lichfield and Diocese of Chester has warned spiritual leaders to stop passing round the Communion cup for parishioners to drink from.
Instead, the vicar, after using an alcohol handwash, will dunk a Communion wafer into the wine then hand it to the parishioner to avoid spreading disease.
Some vicars may choose to dry the wafers before consecration.
"What we are doing is dipping a wafer into the wine, rather than giving people a cup to share.
"That's the advice we have received from the powers-that-be.
"Other than that it is just common sense, really. People won't come to church if they are suffering flu-like symptoms.
"It hasn't affected my parish visits, but if anyone has swine flu I don't expect they will invite me."
Rev Sue Goodwin, of St John the Baptist Church in Wetley Rocks, said: "We are following the diocese guidelines.
"People have been fine with it.
"We have also been advising people to find a flu friend to pick up medication in case they get sick, and make sure some of our more vulnerable and older parishioners do not feel isolated or get left on their own."
Catholic churches have also taken steps to reduce the risk of infection.
Father Peter Weatherby of Sacred Heart Catholic Church said: "What we are being advised locally is a common sense approach with hygiene and not to panic.
"At a lot of Catholic churches, Holy Communion is still received on the tongue. We are being told to avoid that and give it to hand instead.
"A lot of Catholic churches don't receive from the chalice, but some do. There's no need to withdraw that, but I think gradually we may withdraw it temporarily.
"We also greet each other and shake hands and there's some advice to stop that, but my personal feeling is that if this is the situation we are at, we are all going to end up living in a bubble.
"Churches are not dangerous places and I don't think people are panicking, but there is an overreaction."
Diocese of Lichfield spokesman Gavin Drake said: "The advice now is that use of the chalice should cease. Originally, the medical advice was that drinking from the same cup wouldn't make any difference, because swine flu is so contagious that if you sit for an hour in church with someone who already has it, you would be likely to pick it up anyway.
"The key advice would be for people suffering flu-like symptoms to stay away from church."
The advice comes from a letter sent to Anglican bishops by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
The letter says: "We recommend those presiding at Holy Communion suspend the administration of the chalice during this wave of pandemic flu.
"For those who still wish to offer in both kinds, we recommend the practice whereby the presiding minister, whose hands should have been washed with the appropriate alcohol-based rub before handling the elements and the vessels, personally intincts all wafers before placing them in the hands of communicants."
Melvyn Ryder, aged 64, a parishioner at St George's, said: "I feel the restriction is a bit extreme and over-the-top. To have the wafer dunked into the wine took away a lot of the significance of Communion for me."
Fellow parishioner Ruth Bell added: "I can understand why it has been brought in, but where do we draw the line? Are they going to have to take a similar measure if someone picks up a bit of a chill?
"I just hope it is only short-term."