Monday, July 27, 2009

Ask the Rector #1: Swine Flu Correspondence

This is a correspondence I had with a parishioner. She gave me permission to share it on the Blog. I thought some of you might be thinking about this subject.

Dear Susan,
I saw this recommendation from the Church of England today. Is it something you would consider in the future? By the way, a relative had swine flu two weeks ago.
Love, C.

Dear C.,

Interesting article. I'm so sorry to hear about your relative although I have a feeling it will serve him well during the winter when I expect the flu to get worse. I have been talking about this very subject with the vestry -- the swine flu has been in the public schools and we have had at least one confirmed case in the parish that I know of.

My inclination right now is that until things are worse (so far the cases in the county have been mild) we will keep things the same. If it gets worse, I will remind the congregation about the option of intinction and suggest that it would be preferable given the swine flu threat. The third option (were things to become quite grim) would be to intict the bread for the people.

Some problems happen for me theologically with denying the people the wine altogether and also with the common cup. Before the Reformation the Roman Catholic Church only served wine to priests and only gave people the bread. That was one of Martin Luther's primary criticisms of the church and I, for one, would be loathe to undo the reforms of 500 years ago.

The second concern that I have is around the common cup. In the 1980s during the worst of the AIDS epidemmic, a bishop was visiting Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. A helpful person explained to him that the priest was no longer consuming the wine at the end of communion out of fear of contracting the disease (you will recall that at that time we had no idea how the disease was spread and no treatment once it was contracted). He replied that he had always finished the cup and would continue to. The power of that gesture has been a lifelong symbol to me about the fact that our fates are tied to each other. The cup is common becuase our lives are common -- your pain is mine and mine is yours.

That said, I have every intention of stepping up hygeine around the altar. Asking that Purell be readily available in the narthex and in the transcepts for the acolytes as well as for me right before administering communion because it couldn't hurt. I also have spoken with the vestry about going to a modified peace and encouraging an acknowlegement of one another that doesn't necessarily include hugs, kisses, and handshakes.

Thanks for sharing this article with me. It's not the first time that the Archbishop of Canterbury and I have seen things differently and I don't suspect it will be the last.Do you mind if I post this on the blog? I think people maybe wondering about this very question but not know how to ask. Hope you are all having a refreshing summer. Blessings,Susan


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