Dear Bethesda Family,
We’re sure you’ve seen the news about the new coronavirus currently circulating in countries across the world. We’re closely monitoring these developments, and we believe that this potential pandemic provides us an opportunity to address both immediate and ongoing questions about communicable disease risks in worship settings.
Several practices raise both questions and concerns. Please carefully read and follow our guidelines below, and please be respectful and kind about others’ choices should they not wish to hug or shake hands at the Peace or following the service.
For us as Episcopalians, Communion is at the heart of our worship life together. Whenever a new disease appears, questions arise about how best to protect ourselves while fully entering into our common worship.
First, we want to emphasize that there has never been a documented instance of disease spreading through a shared Communion chalice. Nonetheless, we want to take whatever steps we can to minimize any risk.
Most viruses are transmitted through the air—one person coughs or sneezes, and another inhales the infected droplets. Others are transmitted by touch—one touches a contaminated surface and then touches one’s nose, mouth, or eyes—and our hands carry a great many germs.
Many people think that they can protect themselves during Communion by intincting—dipping the bread into the chalice of wine. But that is simply not true. The consensus of experts is that intinction actually increases the risk to everyone because one person after another transmits germs from their hands to the wine.
In order to reasonably reduce the risk of disease, we are making several small changes to the way we offer Communion, effective immediately.
The Changes We’re Making
- As you come up to receive Communion, an acolyte will offer you hand sanitizer. We encourage everyone to make use of this, as we have all just exchanged the Peace right before.
- If you choose to receive wine from a chalice, you may drink from the chalice. No one will be permitted to intinct from the large chalices.
- If you prefer to intinct, you can still do so, but you will need to use a small intinction cup that the priest distributing the bread will hold.
What You Can Do
- If you’re sick, please stay home. Our services are webcast, and we will work with you to bring you Communion at home if you desire it.
- Feel free to opt out of shaking hands at the Peace. A nod of the head is fine, and a smile is always well-received.
- Feel free to receive only the bread. The Church has long held that receiving in only one kind is fully receiving communion.
- Wash your hands regularly—with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and best practices here: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
As the situation with the new coronavirus develops, we’ll continue to evaluate our approach and may make changes as necessary. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and cooperation with these changes as we work to ensure that our worship continues to be both uplifting and safe for everyone.
Blessings to you as we begin this holy season of Lent.