Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not sure how this is going to go over

July 30, 2009

Loving your Neighbor as you love Yourself: Responding to H1N1

When the Synod of the Province of Rupert’s Land met in Calgary in June a Motion was passed expressing concern for the communities affected by the current flu pandemic. The H1N1 flu has seriously afflicted many First Nations communities in the northern parts of our country, and is beginning to appear in more southern towns and cities. I am sure that you are aware of this concern and are remembering our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Prayers of the People each time you gather to express your love for the Lord our God.

However I am writing to you at this time to bring to your attention steps which you can take to physically protect yourself and all who come to our church buildings for worship and fellowship. To undertake these simple acts will be an expression of your love for your neighbor even as you love yourself.

1. Hand-washing
There should be signage with clear instructions in church washrooms and kitchens instructing people to wash their hands with soap and hot water. Kitchen users should develop the habit of first washing their hands before they begin handling food and beverage. Altar Guild members should wash their hands before they begin the work of preparing the altar. Is there soap, water, and paper towels available in these areas in the church building?

2. Hand-cleanser
Our churches and halls are open to the Public. Making an antiseptic hand-sanitizer available at the entrances to the building, washrooms, meeting rooms with a Sign asking people to make use of it is a positive preventive act.

3. Distributing Holy Communion
Everyone who will be touching the bread and wine in the preparation of the altar during the service and in the distribution of the consecrated elements should use a hand-sanitizer immediately prior to assisting with the preparation and distribution.

4. Receiving Holy Communion
It is recommended that hand-sanitizer be available for people to use as they come forward to receive Holy Communion.

Intinction (dipping the bread into the chalice) is not to be practiced. In concert with other dioceses intinction is no longer an acceptable practice in the Diocese of Calgary since it is a significant health hazard. Research, though limited, has indicated the use of the common cup generally poses less risk of transferring bacteria than the practice of intinction.

If a person is concerned about receiving the common cup they are to be assured that communion in one kind, receiving the bread only, is an acceptable tradition within the Anglican Church. They could be instructed to simple touch the base of the chalice as the words of administration are said.

The use of a silver chalice, wine with an alcohol content of at least 12% or higher, and a clean purificator provide some protection to the less virulent bacteria that are constantly with us; however, H1N1 is an uncommon strain and therefore extra precautions must be taken.

5. Exchange of the Peace
As one diocese has announced, “social distancing is NOT to be discouraged”. Much as we may desire to greet each other with a hug it is best to refrain from doing so. Although a hand-shake is still an acceptable form of greeting, if H1N1 becomes more active we will have to curtail even a hand-shake and simply greet each other with eye-contact, a smile, a bow, or some such peace greeting sign.

6. Church Attendance
If you are not feeling well, have flu-like symptoms, or think that you might be coming down with something, the loving act is to stay home and take care of yourself. Be sure to let your minister know so that your church family can be supportive.

7. Pastoral Visits
Clergy and laity who make home visits on behalf of the parish should carry a hand-sanitizer with them and use it at the beginning and at the end of a visit. If you are visiting a person who is under the care of a health practitioner, you will of course follow their instructions in order to protect both the patient and yourself.

During the month of August the Diocese will be developing a pandemic response policy and this will be circulated to all parishes.

Much of what I have written is common sense and you are already doing it. Some of the items may be new and I ask that you begin to put them into practice. We are indeed commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves and taking precautions to guard against the spread of H1N1 is one way in which we can honor our Lord’s Summary of the Law.

God be with you,
The Rt. Rev. Derek Hoskin
Bishop of Calgary
180, 1209 59 Avenue SE
Calgary AB T2H 2P6

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