Comments: update on swine flu advice

Is "College of Bishops" a new phrase in an "official" C of E context - it struck me as not being quite the usual phrase in the C of E (whereas it might be the norm in the RC Church), but maybe that's just me being forgetful or never having noticed it so used before?

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 18 September 2009 at 1:33pm BST

Well, at least Eucharist in one kind (bread) only is a la Romana...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 18 September 2009 at 7:35pm BST

Fr Mark

In the Church of England the College of Bishops comprises all diocesan and suffragan bishops. It is distinct from the House of Bishops (one of the three houses of General Synod) which comprises all the diocesan bishops plus eight suffragans and the bishop to the forces. There are about 70 suffragans.

Posted by Peter Owen at Friday, 18 September 2009 at 9:43pm BST

Fr Mark I too, have never come across this phrase in a C of E context before. It is clearly an innovation and to me sounds rather clericalising and aggrandising.

How could a 'College of Bishops' fail to be right ?

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Friday, 18 September 2009 at 9:55pm BST

I'm already fed up with this- I'd like to take communion as I've always done. Clerical hysteria on a mass scale?

Posted by Simon Overton at Saturday, 19 September 2009 at 6:33pm BST

Agreed, Simon Overton. Another over-reaction rather than a reminder to be cautiously aware of risks. My church is not at sixes or sevens with the advice - we simply ignore it and allow people to make up their own minds. Nobody who seriously thinks they have Swine Flu is going to receive the chalice. Also when was the last time in the last 2000 years that sharing the chalice wiped out congregations?

Posted by Neil at Saturday, 19 September 2009 at 9:46pm BST

As has been noted over and over again in the past few months--you are more likely to catch the flu as you pass the peace than as you pass the chalice.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Sunday, 20 September 2009 at 2:18am BST

Thanks, Peter.

Posted by Fr Mark at Sunday, 20 September 2009 at 4:11pm BST

"Also when was the last time in the last 2000 years that sharing the chalice wiped out congregations?"

Well, for much of that time in both West and East Communion by the laity was very infrequent, and in the West was given only under the form of Bread; even in the East, the laity doesn't actually drink from the Chalice. So the appeal to history doesn't seem to provide much reassurance.

Last week I happened to be at a Mass at the local RC cathedral, and saw a woman in what may become high fashion for Mass-goers this flu season: mantilla, surgical mask, and purple latex gloves...

Posted by BillyD at Sunday, 20 September 2009 at 6:32pm BST

My home parish has digested the information given by health authorities, and the recommendations of the bishops in New Zealand. We have advised the parishioners of the situation, and have continued to offer both Host and Chalice, believing that, as someone else has said here, any contact at all - especially the customary hand-shake - has its own risks. People are advised to do what they feel comfortable with. If they suspect the Chalice to be a source of spreading infection, they may receive the Host only. It is still the fullness of Christ in the Eucharist. We have had no problems.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 20 September 2009 at 8:32pm BST

"...the president gave each person the option of receiving the wine or not."

How is this different than any other celebration of the Eucharist? In the US, anyone who doesn't want to drink from the chalice - for whatever reason - has the option of signaling that by crossing their arms in front of them, and the chalice-bearer passes them by. Is it different in England? Do they usually somehow *compel* people to receive in both kinds?

Posted by BillyD at Sunday, 20 September 2009 at 9:55pm BST

Several commentators to this thread seem to be missing the point. Swine Flu is not very dangerous to the individual, if you catch it you are unlikely to die or even suffer seriously. The threat is to the Health Service and the economy of the whole country.
If for weeks on end 10% of the population is off work, economic output will fall, and the pandemic will be observable in GDP figures; this in a time of Recession. And it’s not just the economy that may be affected, if 10% of hospital staff are also off each week, treatments will be delayed and patients may suffer. This along with the increased total death toll from Swine Flu (so many cases) means that the pandemic will be observable in the health statistics.
The aim of the advice to slow down the spread of the disease. Nothing more than that. If the pandemic lasts longer, but is less intense the Health Service and the economy can cope better. 5% off each week for longer is better than 10% for shorter.
The problem is that when the advice was given (and indeed even now) not enough is known about the disease to build an effective mathematical model of the pandemic. Intuition suggests that the rate of transmission when case numbers are low is more important for the length of the pandemic than later. Further over the summer, with schools and colleges closed, churches are likely to be major points of transmission. This culminated in the advice to churches to refrain from sharing the cup. It will be reassessed in the changed conditions of autumn.
Nobody is deliberately passing the disease on, but you will be infectious before symptoms develop. Nobody should be considering their own safety, fear is an unworthy motive for the Christian. Nobody should be demanding that their personal choice is met when a pandemic means a sick country as well as sick people.
I don’t know about the situation elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, and frankly I am bewildered by attitudes to health in the USA, but the Church of England needs to live up to its name and theology and to act responsibly in matter of public health.
And please God, give us some Bishops who are educated in matters of science and mathematics.

Posted by Fr Peter Milligan at Monday, 21 September 2009 at 10:54am BST

Theres's a bit of an "I'm all right Jack" attitude to some of these posts. Surely as Christians we are called to think of the others and not just ourselves.

For example - lets say in a congregation of fifty nearly all are healthy, but three regular communicants are immune impaired. They may have HIV, or be on immune suppressing drugs for any one of a range of medical conditions such as cancer or a transplant. For understandable reasons they want to keep that news to only a few trusted friends - and they do not want to take the very small risk of partaking in the Eucharist.

If all the rest of the congregants insist on taking the wine then these three, by abstaining (having been regular communicants in the past) will stand out, and invariably their abstentions will be noticed and risk gossip. "Why did Joan/ John not take communion. She/He did last week. I wonder what's going on?

I would argue that the Christian response for ALL of us might be to stand in solidarity with these others by not take communion. We may not be at risk of infection, but if we abstain then those who are at real risk can also abstain without feeling conspicuous or alone.

Simon

Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Monday, 21 September 2009 at 4:13pm BST

"If for weeks on end 10% of the population is off work, economic output will fall, and the pandemic will be observable in GDP figures; this in a time of Recession."

Well, maybe this is a symptom of something a lot bigger than whether or not a bunch of Anglicans drink from the same cup. Perhaps we ought to ask the question: "What is wrong with our society if an outbreak of a mild, non-fatal illness can bring our economy to its knees?" I mean, really. The current panic, in which some people have been afraid to send their kids to school, etc. is entirely unjustified and has been whipped up by media types who need to sell papers. This virus may mutate and become deadly. We need to be prepared for that eventuality. But we do not need to be in such a panic over this.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 21 September 2009 at 6:55pm BST

"they do not want to take the very small risk of partaking in the Eucharist."

A friend of mine is a priest and he is immune compromised as a result of immunosuppression after a transplant. He consumes the elements at the Ablutions at EVERY Mass he celebrates. Not only has he never had a problem, he is very much against intinction (which is far less safe than a common Cup) and thinks this is all hysteria. Now, that's anecdotal evidence based on one person, so not at all scientific. But, come on, abstain from the Eucharist because SOMEONE MIGHT be immune compromised?? Not without evidence of their presence, not to mention the requirement to demonstrate risk. AFAIK, no-one has ever proven risk, and, as has been said, we Christians have a long history of communing either from a common cup or a common spoon. After 2000 years, ought we not to chill out a bit? Why do something that is not proven to be beneficial on the assumption that someone out there just MIGHT be immune compromised, and that these people MIGHT be at risk for something? Would it not make more sense to prove that there is an actual risk to actual people? If I were in that boat, I'd tell the priest and make arrangements. If you want to prevent real risk to these people whose presence you are assuming, then do away with the smug self congratulatory glad handing we call the Peace.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 21 September 2009 at 8:37pm BST

In my US parish, there are always a few who do not take the chalice (most of us intinct, actually) and a few who go to the rail for a blessing but do not receive. I'm pretty sure I only notice because I'm an usher. I doubt the rest of the congregation notices or cares if they do notice. "Joan didn't take communion...." is not a piece of gossip or news I hear bandied about.

An individual's reasons for taking or not taking communion (in either or both kinds) is nobody else's business...and I think the right response to anyone mentioning it--whether to the person involved or anyone else--is "that is between him and God."

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 21 September 2009 at 10:40pm BST

Pat, your experience meshes with mine. Sometimes (like when I'm afraid that *I* may have something contagious) I receive by intinction, or under one kind. I've never, ever heard anybody comment on it, or on anybody else's Communion reception.

And again, Ford, the 2000 year old "tradition" of the common cup/spoon is hardly that. (By the way, the common spoon - done correctly - avoids contact with the communicant's mouth altogether...the communicant tips their head back, opens wide, and the priest tips the contents of the spoon into their mouth).

Posted by BillyD at Tuesday, 22 September 2009 at 2:14am BST

Ford
"intinction (which is far less safe than a common Cup)"

As far as I understand, intinction means that the priest uses the broken consecrated big wafer to place drops of wine on the small wafers which he or she then dispenses.

That is clearly safer than everyone drinking from the same cup.
It is not the same as the communicants dipping their own wafers into the wine, which is clearly the least safe option.

But in principle, I agree with you, I find the hysteria ridiculous and see no reason why we should not share the common cup. Just as we still share the Peace (which, if I understand it correctly, is wishing Gods peace on each other, not some self-congratulatory meaningless happy clappy stuff).

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 September 2009 at 9:16am BST

"If all the rest of the congregants insist on taking the wine then these three, by abstaining (having been regular communicants in the past) will stand out, and invariably their abstentions will be noticed and risk gossip. "Why did Joan/ John not take communion. She/He did last week. I wonder what's going on?" - Simon Robert Dawson -

And is this not precisely why clergy should be quite open with members of the congregation - about the reccommendations of the health boards and the bishops - while yet not inducing panic about the possibility of infection from their recption of the Eucharist. If congregations are informed as to the possible dangers of reception of the Eucharist, then those opting to receive in one Kind only will not be pilloried.

No method of distributiion of either Host or Chalice is 100% safe - unless the administrant wears a different pair of prophylactic gloves for each communicant, and the Chalice is poured directly into the mouth of the communicant. So what has, in the end, to be trusted, is the individual conscience of both clergy and people.
This will mean that congregations must be told that to receive Holy Communion in one kind only - the Host - is still a valid act of Communion.
Intinction, unfortunately, has been discouraged in some diocese in New Zealand as being capable of transmitting germs from the individual hand into the Common Cup. However, we do still offer the Chalice to those who want to receive it.

To discontinue open use of the Chalice at public Celebrations of the Eucharist - especially now that the perceived problems with HIV/Aids seem to have been allayed - would run the risk of eroding confidence in the whole business of sharing the Eucharist. It may even be that people are already avoiding coming to Church because of the panic about the danger involved.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 September 2009 at 10:31am BST

We seem still to be in the territory of 'my dad smoked 60 a day and it never did him any harm, he died aged 95'. It’s ‘lets all share our ignorance’ time, down at you local church!

It is not always an over-reaction when we are urged to take precautions. Disease is not only a physical and biological phenomenon but affects us corporately as well as individually in many ways. And while it may be true that when the kingdom comes money will be abolished, until then we live in an interconnected world, and a lot of people off sick will affect us all.

And what is the price we have to pay? For a short period we are not able to share the common cup, just long enough to truly rejoice when it is restored.

Posted by Fr Peter Milligan at Tuesday, 22 September 2009 at 10:45am BST

"For a short period we are not able to share the common cup, just long enough to truly rejoice when it is restored."

I see two problems with this:

1. It's a false security. As I said, you're more likely to catch the flu from the person next to you in the pew when you exchange the peace than when you drink from the chalice.

2. "Short periods" have a way of becoming permanent. Who's to say when the risk of the flu is over? Or that some other infectious disease won't take its place? We stop sharing the cup for a year and pretty soon we think it's "traditional" not to do so.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 22 September 2009 at 7:42pm BST

"1. It's a false security. As I said, you're more likely to catch the flu from the person next to you in the pew when you exchange the peace than when you drink from the chalice."

Well, you'll also probably see changes in how people pass the peace, too. The last couple of times I've been to RC masses there was a lot less handshaking and more waving, nodding, and giving the peace sign.

Posted by BillyD at Tuesday, 22 September 2009 at 11:08pm BST

I dread to think of what might develop out of all the panic. Perhaps an automatic, sterilised dispensing machine operated by a qualified medical priest-doctor? The mind boggles!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 23 September 2009 at 11:15pm BST

We've never stopped administering communion in both kinds on this side of the Irish Sea, and I've yet to hear of an Anglican-inspired mass outbreak of swine flu. Kids going back to school is so much greater a vector of any disease communicable through routine contact that worrying about the chalice is a bit silly.

Yes, God give us Bishops that are educated in mathematics and science, and please make sure they're educated enough not to jump on every bit of media inspired hysteria.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Friday, 25 September 2009 at 1:37am BST

It seems to me that there is much muddled thinking about intinction. Yes, there may be a slight risk from self-intinction. But if the priest thoroughly washes his hands at the offertory and places the intincted host in the hand of the communicant, is this any more risky than the act of simply placing the unintincted host in the hand?

Once this pandemic is over, Anglicans need to consider ways of administering in both kinds, even if the common cup has to be temporarily abandoned on future occasions.If some don't like intinction, what about retaining the common cup but administering the wine by pouring small quantities of the consecrated wine into individual thimbles?

Posted by Stephen Linstead at Saturday, 24 October 2009 at 11:21am BST

One of the statements issued by clergy during the pandemic is that is just as efficacious to receive communion in one kind as in both. This doctrine of "concomitance" needs to be challenged. It is not scriptural - no evidence of receiving in one kind in the NT, it has never been accepted by our Orthodox friends, who always administer and reserve in both kinds, and it was invented by Thomas Aquinas at a time when the RC church was quite outrageously starting to withhold the cup form the laity. It has never formed part of the formularies of the CofE, save for the very brief reference to "necessity" in the 1547 Sacrament Act and the rubric to Common Worship (communion of the sick). I suggest Anglican theology on this subject is that administration must always be in both kinds save where absolute necessity requires - and given the availability of intinction, necessity very rarely does so require.

Posted by Stephen Linstead at Saturday, 24 October 2009 at 5:22pm BST

Stephen,

"But if the priest thoroughly washes his hands at the offertory and places the intincted host in the hand of the communicant, is this any more risky than the act of simply placing the unintincted host in the hand?"

If the priest intincts the wafer he uses the broken consecrated wafer to place a drop of wine to the individual wafer. With clean hands he then dispenses this clean wafer to one communicant without touching that communicant's hands.

Self-intinction means that the priest places the wafer onto the hands of the communicant who may be crawling with viruses and who then dips his wafer into the wine. The risk of spreading swine flu is then increased with each communicant and particularly high for those late in the line.

So, no, there is no greater risk from placing an intincted or an unintincted host in the hands of the communicant. The risk factor increases dramatically if the communicant then uses the clean wafer to self-intinct.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 24 October 2009 at 5:23pm BST

Erika, I wish that some bishops would heed your advice. Some of the statements they issue as to why intinction should be avoided use arguments based on self-intinction and on the risks of placing the intincted wafer in the mouth of the communicant - they are either totally confused on this or being intellectually dishonest.

As it is, the possibility of continuing to administer in both kinds during the swine flu pandemic, on the lines endorsed by the two Archbishops, is being frustrated by some of the bishops, followed by clergy who think they have no option but to comply. Such bishops and clergy are doing a real disservice to their flock.

Posted by Stephen Linstead at Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 9:46am GMT

"It is understood that at the College of Bishops' meeting in Oxford this week "the president gave each person the option of receiving the wine or not. All bar less than a handful drank from the chalice." - Bill Bowder, Church Times -

In view of the current fear of infection from the Common Cup, I wonder whether the Bishops who did not communicate from the Chalice could have been identifiable by their opposition to women and gays in the Church?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 8 November 2009 at 11:22pm GMT
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