Updated at 4:25 p. m. with advisory from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops: the need for the introduction of widespread liturgical adaptations for the prevention of the transmission of influenza in the dioceses of the United States of America is not evident at this time.
Many are concerned about the current outbreak of Swine Flu and asking what should churches do.
In addition to the information sent out by Episcopal Relief and Development, as seen in The Lead here, other churches and the CDC have issued guidelines:
A printable pdf to use as a bulletin insert prepared by the Diocese of Texas is here.
The Anglican Church of Canada released guidelines a few years ago, during the SARS outbreak, on Eucharistic Practice and the risk of infection which include:
... for the average communicant it would seem that the risk of drinking from the common cup is probably less than the risk of air-borne infection in using a common building.
Will intinction reduce the risk of transmitting infection?
Intinction (dipping the bread in the wine) is in use in many Episcopal Church (U.S.A) parishes and is increasingly being suggested in Canadian Anglican churches as well. There is, however, real concern that many of the modes of intinction used in parishes do not diminish the threat of infection, and some may actually increase it. Hands, children's and adult's, are at least as likely to be a source of infection (often more so) as lips. Receiving the wafer in the hands and then intincting it means that the wafer, now contaminated by the hand of the recipient, is placed in the wine―thus spreading the infection to it. Dipping the wafer into the wine also means that the wafer picks up any bacteria that might be in the wine. So this offers no protection to the communicant.
Read more here.
The North American Old Catholic Church has put out a press release:
Until the Centers for Disease Control ends the health emergency declaration with regards to the Swine Flu, the following changes to the worship experience have been instituted:
Physically exchanging the sign of peace by shaking hands, hugging, or other bodily contact is prohibited;
Passing the communion chalice when non-alcoholic wine is utilized is prohibited;
The practice of 'intinction'- dipping the communion bread into the communion wine before consumption is prohibited;
Passing the chalice when 12% by volume alcohol wine will continue to be permitted, however the communicant will not be allowed to hold the chalice as is sometimes the practice. The chalice will need to be held by the minister;
Read more here.
Several Roman Catholic dioceses have also decided not to use the common cup and to have a "no contact" exchange of the peace.
The Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Faith Based and Community Organizations Office has issued a checklist for churches and others here as a pdf. More information is here.
Basic guidelines for health and wellness at all times apply:
Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Practice other good health habits.
Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
It is important to take these concerns seriously without becoming alarmist and fear driven