Friday, July 24, 2009

For Goodness Sake

Clergy in the Diocese of Llandaff have today received advice from the Archbishop to stop giving wine at communion during the Swine Flu pandemic. I am afraid I find this an overreaction - feel free to disagree with me and tell me why I am wrong. The following was my tongue-in-cheek email to the Archbishop. No reply yet. I don't think he reads this site! If he does reply I may summarise for you...


But what about the peace? I haven't been given any instructions so I don't know what to do - and obviously I can't trust my common sense, because the government hasn't given me any.

For goodness sake. The government's own medical officer on yesterday's news called this "the mildest pandemic in history". And for this we break our worship? For this we scare people (it must be bad - we can't have communion)?

Are we not Anglicans - are we not supposed to be measured and rather reserved? You of all people, from your tradition, are you not supposed to be able to apply reason here? Those who wish for both kinds - take it. Those who wish not to risk, or who are concerned, should restrict themselves with our blessing to the bread. Those who are cautious, should intinct, as many actually do anyway. Compromise, compromise - this is Anglicanism. Scare tactics are hardly resonant with our brand of faith, or have I missed something?

Now: back to my question. If we are worried about vast swathes of people transferring disease through a common cup, what on earth is going to happen when they shake hands at the peace? Do you recommend we supply surgical gloves at the door as people enter, or simply a good supply of alcoholic wipes to be used after wishing the peace to each individual?

And viruses are airborne; do you think it better we sing hymns using masks, or that we observe "praise silences" for the next eighteen months to two years - the period the pandemic is expected to last?


The serious point is that the church's advice on pandemics refers more to Spanish Flu than Swine Flu; we seem to be confusing quantity for quality just because of the word "pandemic" - there are levels of severity of infection, and it may just be that the scare factor raised by the bishops' action at this point is greater than the public health good they hope to achieve.

Less seriously, but entirely in keeping with the bishops' display of common sense, your good ideas on how to best increase the hype around Swine Flu, worry the frail and adversely affect our worship as a community are welcome.


Anonymous said...

It is how infection is passed of course, maybe we should wipe the cup with antiseptic cloth instead of plain fabric. We could all bring our own small cup! The Govt. have estimated 65,ooo deaths mostly of the young because they are so tactile with one another..It certainly throws us to praying for one another..... joyce

Anonymous said...

We could all bring a straw..joyce...

theMuddledMarketPlace said...


How about ( church man/woman ship aside) about a plate of wafers?
A huge plate?
All the wafers seperated out?

The plate is proffered to each communicant. Who takes one wafer
and intincts it? ( is that correct grammar?)

Not over the cup tho....'the nursing home dilemma' would then kick in :(

sigh.........or we could all go Baptist instead?
I'd go for that, inspite of the theological sniffs over it all.

Bet the Salvation Army are thrilled they are not having this discussion though...the youngest will be entirely unaffected by this debate

Marcus Green said...

Joyce - I take your antiseptic cloth comment seriously. I think we should look at that one and see if practically there is something we could do. The straw amuses me!

MMP & Joyce - we aren't allowed to use individual shot glasses as our non-conformist brethren do: Here's a note that came with the bishops' letter (I quote it in full for your delight) -

"1.The Legal Advisory Commission has advised that ‘The practice of intinction may be regarded as lawful where a communicant or the congregation as a whole is fearful of contracting or communicating a contagious disease through drinking from the cup.’ (Legal Opinions Concerning the Church of England [8th edition: 2007], pp.345-348). However, if the consecrated wine is administered to communicants they cannot be required to receive it by intinction. The use of individual communion cups is not lawful and would, in any event, also involve hygiene risks in the context of pandemic flu.

It's not that I'm not taking this seriously; it's that I don't want to be scaremongering, and at this point, withdrawing Communion Wine is scaremongering. We are dealing with all sorts of people, and many of them will feel bewildered at the instruction to do something that has never happened in their lifetimes, and which will feel to some like God is being removed at a time of need, because this is such an important part of our worship.

In our own congregation we have had ill people this last week; I know that they have been rung, written to & visited (sometimes spoken to through a closed front door!) & that in this way, sensible precautions to avoid infection have been taken, but teh church has been the church and worship has continued. Common sense is extremely possible in the practice of our faith, and is alive and well in the South Wales valleys. The archbishop is welcome to come and see it for himself.

MMP - "the nursing home dilemma" of slightly nervous folk losing wafers into the cup and then reaching around for them with their fingers is indeed a worse option than a small sip; unless of course, they leave their mints in the cup afterwards along with their germs as they sip. But that's an argument against ever taking Communion again, and on the whole, I'm going to take the risk! (That can be my epitaph...)

the_exile said...

I hear that 10% of the UK population is going to die of this disease. I also heard this advice for dealing with a potentially dangerous situation: stay inside a sturdy building, stay away from the windows and don't - whatever you do - pick up the phone.

Marcus Green said...

Thank you exile - your grasp of hype and hysteria is exactly what the bishops are aiming at!

I hadn't heard the one where phones communicate the disease - but now I use that word, I realise the issue: it's a communicable disease, so we should stop communion and then we'd stop the disease. Maybe these bishops aren't so daft?

the_exile said...

And your reaction is just what we needed, now no-one will care that I was passing on advice for thunderstorms (sorry for the confusion there), because the whole communicable thing is off and running and even I am nervous about picking up the phone if it's a UK number calling. Probably.

Marcus Green said...

(the sound of vague confusion, followed by re-reading your earlier comment, and then prolonged laughter!)