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.