Addressing Parishioners' Concerns about Flu and the Coronavirus

Clergy and Members of the Diocese:

As the flu season continues, and amid growing concerns about the possible spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, now is a good time to remind everyone about best practices for hygiene during Eucharist and other services.

During Eucharist and the Peace

  • Parishioners who are coughing or sneezing should refrain from handshaking during the Peace. Fist bumps, elbow bumps, friendly waves, and peace signs are all acceptable substitutes.
  • Churches should make hand-sanitizers available for parishioners to use. Sanitize hands before and after contact with others.
  • Assure parishioners that the entire altar party will be washing their hands before the service and will use hand sanitizer before the Liturgy of the Table.
  • Strongly discourage intinction (the dipping of the bread into the wine). Intinction does little to avoid the spread of disease and may actually increase the spread, as the bread or wafer spends more time in the (possibly unclean) hand before being dipped in the wine.
  • There has never been much evidence of risk of disease associated with the shared communion cup. But if parishioners are concerned, remind them it is acceptable to 1) abstain from communion, or 2) receive "in one kind" (host only). Let them know how to indicate this preference at the altar rail - by crossing their arms over their chest right after receiving the host. The chalicer will then know they do not wish to take the communion cup.

Elsewhere in the Church Facilities

  • You may choose to wipe down altar rails and the tops of pews, since the virus can last for more than an hour on hard surfaces.
  • Avoid stuffed toys in the nursery room.

Pastoral Care

  • Here is a sample of a letter from clergy to parishioners should you wish to do this. 
  • Keep in mind parishioners who are likely to be particularly vulnerable to the virus and stay in touch with them.
  • Be aware of parishioners or staff who work on an hourly basis. If there are quarantines, their livelihood is affected.
  • Have a plan for delivering food to those who are quarantined.
  • If you have the capability, be prepared to livestream your Sunday service or have some other way of sharing worship with those who cannot come to church.
  • Best hygiene practice should continue to be observed in all pastoral contacts.