Thinking Anglicans

Archbishops advise suspension of common cup

The archbishops of Canterbury and York have this evening issued revised advice in relation to Coronavirus COVID-19.

Their latest letter is here: Coronavirus letter 10th March 2020 – Archbishops guidance on common cup and the full text is copied below the fold.

…It is our view, in light of the continued increase of Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom, that it is now necessary to suspend the administration of the chalice as well as physical contact during the sharing of the peace, blessing or “laying on of hands”.

We therefore advise that all priests should:-

  • Offer Communion in one kind only to all communicants i.e. the consecrated bread/wafer/host, with the priest alone taking the wine;
  • suspend handshaking or other direct physical contact during the sharing of the peace;
  • suspend direct physical contact as part of a blessing or ‘laying on of hands’…

The full Church of England advice can be found over here.

To all clergy

Dear Colleagues,

Coronavirus COVID-19

Tuesday 10 March 2020

We are writing to inform you that we have updated our guidance in relation to suspension of the Common Cup and other practical steps in response to Coronavirus Covid-19. The full guidance is online, but the relevant update is as follows:

It is our view, in light of the continued increase of Covid-19 cases in the United Kingdom, that it is now necessary to suspend the administration of the chalice as well as physical contact during the sharing of the peace, blessing or “laying on of hands”.

We therefore advise that all priests should:-

  • Offer Communion in one kind only to all communicants i.e. the consecrated bread/wafer/host, with the priest alone taking the wine;
  • suspend handshaking or other direct physical contact during the sharing of the peace;
  • suspend direct physical contact as part of a blessing or ‘laying on of hands’. We hope the guidance is clear and self-explanatory.From today, when we preside at the Eucharist at Lambeth Palace and at Bishopthorpe Palace, we are going to give communion in one kind only (the bread) and will not share the peace nor lay on hands for blessings

From today, when we preside at the Eucharist at Lambeth Palace and at Bishopthorpe Palace, we are going to give communion in one kind only (the bread) and will not share the peace nor lay on hands for blessings

This is an important issue but it is only one of the very many matters that you will be considering at this demanding time.

We want to assure you all of our prayers and thoughts as across the country, communities consider what steps they can take to care and support one another. We are certain that plans are being made around the country to care in particular for the elderly, vulnerable and the isolated; it is crucial that we give attention to those most at risk.

We are all in this together and we all must be alert to the challenges and the demands that we might face. We are seeking national advice regularly and are very grateful to all those who are working with us. Clearly, none of us knows precisely how the current situation will develop so we need to pray and work to be prepared for all reasonable eventualities.

Thank you again for all you are doing up and down the country to encourage one another, to care for one another and to provide resources to enable people to respond appropriately in these uncertain times.

May we also pray for all those working in our health service and in leadership roles. We are grateful for their dedication, expertise and hard work.

As we journey through this season of Lent we are all aware of the challenges that face us day by day. Now we need to continue to work together and to pray for each other, showing compassion and resilience and above all, caring especially for those who are marginalised in our societies.

Yours in Christ,

The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury

The Most Revd & Rt Hon John Sentamu Archbishop of York

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peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
3 months ago

Prudent precautions, but is there any evidence people have been infected by using the same drinking utensil with an infected individual?
My understanding is that COVID-19 is spread via droplets from sneezing or coughing.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
3 months ago

One assumes that the “advice” will be treated as an instruction, so that discussion of the infection risk should be academic. But, doesn’t the possible risk of transferring infection also arise from the communicant handling the Communion cup? This happens widely in most C of E churches when the cup is handed to the communicant to hold while drinking from it, thus potentially passing infection not only to the next communicant but also the priest or other person administering the cup. In the C of E Catholic tradition it is normal for the priest or deacon to hold the chalice… Read more »

Richard
Richard
3 months ago

Wouldn’t “droplets from coughing” be on the lips of the person drinking from the chalice?

Kate
Kate
3 months ago

Appalling I remember the risk of infection from a common cup raised as a question in confirmation classes. The priest was clear: if we believe that God has Indeed sanctified the wine then there is no risk. He told a story from his time as a missionary when the wine had been poisoned but still nobody got ill. It’s sad that faith is so shallow these days that a cup and wine which have been blessed are seen as a risk. It is appalling that such an attitude is promoted by the archbishops. If the Church and priests don’t believe… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I don’t think that’s a matter of faith, Kate, it’s a matter of biology. For example, if (real) bread is used for the sacrament, then it will go mouldy, and it would then not be a good thing to eat. Whatever one’s beliefs about the elements, it remains in the form of bread, and behaves as bread. And will have the same effects as bread if consumed. Similarly with the cup. If it does contain saliva from an infected person then there is the risk of infection. We drink from a common cup as a sign that we are in… Read more »

Kate
Kate
3 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

It is absolutely a question of faith. “we pray that by the power of your Holy Spirit this bread/wine also may be to us his body/blood, to be received in remembrance of him.” If the word from the church is that the common cup might cause infection then the wine *cannot* be his body which directly conflicts with the Eucharistic prayers. It is also staying that partaking of his body might cause harm. The announcement from the archbishops essentially says that the Eucharist is a sham. And where does this end? Because now that the Church of England has asserted… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

We also pray that John or Jane Doe be healed, only to see them go to their final reward.
We pray that our political leaders be given discernment — only to see them behave foolishly.
We pray for peace, only to see war and violence.

Why should the Eucharistic prayers be any more efficacious against COVID-19?

I believe one of the three corners of Anglicanism’s three-cornered stool is reason.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Why would God preserve the life of someone drinking from a chalice and yet allow a person to die just because someone sneezed over them?

Caelius Spinator
Caelius Spinator
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

It’s weird for me to say, having had ecstatic experiences of the sanctification of the elements, but I really need to refer to the 28th Article of Religion, “Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ… Read more »

Kate
Kate
3 months ago

I agree that if one believes in transubstantiation the guidance is even harder to accept but I don’t think we need to go that far. For instance any excess wine or bread (unless reserved) has to be consumed by the celebrant. That only makes sense if one believes that they are no longer mundane bread and wine. Similarly, I think most Christians see a difference between holy water and ordinary water. So, while not necessarily believing in transubstantiation the traditional Anglican position is clearly that there has been a change in the nature of the bread and wine. This guidance… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

But whatever one believes about the elements, it is clear that the “accidents” do not change. That is, everything that can be physically measured about the consecrated elements is exactly the same before and after the Eucharistic Prayer. That’s the official high Roman Catholic position, consistent with Thomas Aquinas and centuries of teaching. (That’s how I understand it anyway.) So if everything measurable is still the same, and the accidents are unchanged, there doesn’t seem to be any basis for thinking that either species might be immune from contamination. If all our instruments can’t tell the difference, why would viruses… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

‘if we believe that God has Indeed sanctified the wine then there is no risk.’ Kate, did your priest specify who needs to believe in order for the common cup to carry no risk? Is it the consecrating priest or the individual recipient? If the priest, what if she/he doesn’t believe this – does that entail risk for everyone receiving? Do all communicants have to believe for it to work for all; or is it “I believe so I’ll be OK, if you get ill it’s because you don’t believe’? I’d want to know the answers before I risked spreading… Read more »

Kate
Kate
3 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

“I believe so I’ll be OK, if you get ill it’s because you don’t believe’?

Absolutely. But it is minor compared to the Biblical position is that those who believe will be saved but those who don’t won’t be.

We keep saying that witness is the core of mission but part of that is acting on our beliefs.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

If that were true, it would be irresponsible for a priest to give people the wine, in case they didn’t have enough faith and died. Which puts us back where we started, with the archbishops being wise to advice not giving people the chalice during this epidemic. I was taught that the reason we consume remaining consecrated bread and wine, or reserve them in a locked aumbry, is so that they can’t be taken by unauthorised persons and possibly misused – such as in satanic rites. Or, more probably, by any person who decided to go into church and help… Read more »

Victoriana
Victoriana
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, you make an intriguing point that raises questions about how we might distinguish between faith and superstition. Fear of poisoning is why the old Papal liturgy incorporated the pregustatio, where an acolyte would test the wine to be used for the Mass prior to the offertory. The length and elaboration of the Papal liturgy prior to the 1960s could be seen as a way to leave plenty of time to see how the acolyte fared before the Pope partook of the chalice. With all respect to the priest who prepared you for confirmation, I think that story falls on… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

What appalls me is the willingness of some to prove their own faith by risking the health and lives of others.

Susannah Clark
3 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, from a nurse’s point of view, I think – as a Church – we have a responsibility to set an example, to lead by example, and do everything we can to help reduce infection. When I think of the countless frail and elderly people who come up to the altar to drink from the cup, then a sheer sense of protection shouts out, ‘That is unnecessarily foolish.’ You say ‘There is no risk.’ That’s a bold statement. I disagree. I would not want to play out my mysticism with other, vulnerable people as the guinea pigs. Indeed, denying the… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
3 months ago

I doubt if infection is the result of the common cup, assuming the chalice is of noble metal. But people clearly think so. “Dipping” seems to have been steadily increasing for several years.

Simon Kershaw
Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Intinction is a greater risk than drinking from the chalice — not necessarily to the dipper, but to those who drink subsequently. But the guidance says that intinction is not to be permitted, and nor is receiving the host directly on the tongue.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
3 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

I totally agree Simon. Intinction creates a health risk for many, including coeliacs. It is very thoughtless behaviour. But it also undermines the whole idea of sharing the common cup. In one church where I presided I was one of the few actually drinking from the cup at some eucharists.

Tim Chesterton
3 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

I’ve also become aware of how it cross-contaminates the chalice for those who have gluten allergies.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
3 months ago
Reply to  Simon Kershaw

Well said, Simon. If any good is to come out of this in the long term it’ll surely be through churches following the lead of York Minister and others and banning dipping. Not only does the practice risk infection and vitiate the symbolism of the common cup, it can also result in contamination with wheat gluten. With a coeliac in my family I know the unpleasent effects of even a tiny amount of gluten. Once the Corvid 19 crisis is over, people will need reassuring that the chalice is safe to drink from and, for unrepentant dippers, that the full… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  Allan Sheath

We have managed to stamp out intinction over the last year, largely on the grounds of gluten contamination. We have no intincters now, and one or two who regularly no longer share the common cup. We have a couple of people who receive the host on the tongue, one for medical reasons.

Caelius Spinator
Caelius Spinator
3 months ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

There has been research on this question since the late 19th century. I was impressed by Gregory et al. (1967, Canadian Journal of Public Health, 58, 305-310), which noted that silver is well-known not to kill bacteria or viruses, just inhibit their function. The wine only goes so far as well. See this 1998 editorial letter (hard to find non-paywalled resources) for information and a list of resources: https://www.ntnl.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Common-Cup-CDC.pdf That said, just because you ingest the microbes, you are not automatically infected. Infection is very specific and relies on a microbial load surviving until it reaches the tissues in which… Read more »

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
3 months ago

One cannot but feel this is Welby at his worst. Using the virus to bring everyone down to his level of theology.

Some of us remember the start of the Aids pandemic, when we knew little or nothing about it. But the Archbishop of the day allowed the continued use of the common cup.

Fr John Emlyn

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
3 months ago

Fr John. What a strange comment. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Archbishop’s theology – which you clearly rate lower the yours. But your memory is correct about AIDS – ‘we knew little or nothing about it’. Which is hardly a sound basis for considering health initiatives in a pandemic is it?

Charles K
Charles K
3 months ago

Its not a strange comment – its disgraceful. This is an epidemic where lives of all of us are at significant risk. It is not a time to make cheap jibes at the church leadership. It is a time to respond with care, caution and grace. We need to be mindful of the fear and worry this is causing and respond appropriately. How about we raise up the level of theology to that of the sanctity of human life and do all we can to preserve that individually and corporately. This is not about Welby. This is about humanity.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
3 months ago

COVID-19 is far easier to transmit than HIV – the risks are not comparable.

Stanley Monkhouse
3 months ago

This is all most interesting, and wonderfully illustrative of the knots into which people will tie themselves in order to believe six impossible things before breakfast. As a PP I banned intinction years ago. My experience was that only respectable middle class women wanted it so that their lips didn’t have to tread where others had trod before. I pointed out that their hands were filthy from scratching faces, touching hankies, bibles, hymn books, leaflets and pews, and exchanging the peace (thank God that’s gone if only temporarily), the conclusion being that their hands that used to do dishes were… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
3 months ago

Once again Stan grounds us all in reality: the priest’s hands are filthy and will pass on their bugs as they give us the host. We are mortal creatures and there is risk in every aspect of our lives; it cannot be entirely eliminated. The Body of Christ drives me mad at times but it also has been a source of great comfort and inspiration to me; how sad if we denied ourselves the sacraments only to be infected by a previously handled packet of pasta from Waitrose. Unlike Stan I’m no scientist but aren’t the virologists saying that there… Read more »

Kate
Kate
3 months ago

”The Archbishops say that from today when they preside at Communion services in their official residences – Lambeth Palace in London and Bishopthorpe in York – they will give communion in one kind only – bread – and they will not share the peace or lay on hands for blessings.” That’s from the link in the subsequent post but comment here makes more sense. So they also now won’t lay on hands for blessings. We are back to the Middle Ages when lepers were shunned by the Church, only now it is everyone. In 1st Century Palestine there were many… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
3 months ago

From today’s Guardian – about the 1917 Spanish flu outbreak that killed many millions. “Germ theory – according to which infectious diseases are caused by microscopic organisms – was also relatively new. Inevitably, people found it easy to revert to more mystical, and more fatalistic, explanations of what was happening. In the deeply pious Spanish city of Zamora, for example, the local bishop defied the health authorities by ordering a novena – evening prayers on nine consecutive days – in honour of Saint Rocco, the patron saint of plague and pestilence. This involved churchgoers lining up to kiss the saint’s… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
3 months ago

As the Anglican student at the Gregorian University in Rome 1979/80 I was privileged to take a course led by Fr Jared Wicks SJ entitled “The eucharist in Reformation controversy and Ecumenical convergence”…having read some of the comments on here about Anglican eucharistic doctrine I rather wish a similar course was available for Anglican ordinands and others. It seems to me the ecumenical convergence of the last 40yrs (ARCIC; Anglican/Orthodox; Anglican/Lutheran and Anglican /Reformed ) seems to have passed most Anglican church people incl clergy by.

Stanley Monkhouse
3 months ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Perry, guilty as charged, I think. Didn’t engage brain. Trouble is, I’m not very well educated theologically – 2 year part time non-res, so I’m not alone. FWIW (nothing) I think clergy need to be well educated.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
3 months ago

I taught Church history on a course part-time for a while and in early retirement took a group for POT. I felt their knowledge about the history of the Church they were being ordained into was pretty thin and also church/ministry and sacraments…and did ventilate my concerns. It seemed to me that many “churchmanship” conflicts would be helped by greater attention to this area.

Stanley Monkhouse
3 months ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Absolutely. Fortunately my 40 years as a musician in a wide variety of church traditions helped to plug some of the gaps, but not, I fear, transubstantiation. I think I’ve said it before but if I ruled the world, trainees would be made to spend several months in a church that they didn’t find at all comfortable.

T Pott
T Pott
3 months ago

The Archbishops do not cite government of other medical advice in support of their views. It is, they say, their view that it is now necessary to suspend the admnistation of the chalice. Is it also the chief medical officer’s view? We read in 1 Corinthians 11 of a case where many had fallen ill, and some died, after receiving Holy Communion. St Paul blamed unworthy reception, but then St Paul was not a physician. It would be interesting to know St Luke’s opinion. Infectious disease is always with us and if the common cup is a risk now it… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin
3 months ago
Reply to  T Pott

I do hope that the Archbishops are taking proper medical advice. Some among the House of Bishops have the sort of background to encourage the use of proper medical advice. The Bishop of London, for example, is a former Chief Nursing Officer and ought to know how these things are done.

JustSayin
JustSayin
3 months ago

Kate, are you for real? I find your comments implying lack of faith through following sensible health advice ill informed and offensive. The congregations for whom I have pastoral care are at least 60% over 70 years old, including more than a few over 90. Chances are in the next decade or so I’ll bury most of them, as I have been doing for the past 35 years of ordained ministry. If you don’t mind I’d prefer not to hasten the process and as it is my name ‘over the door’ I take full responsibility for doing all I can… Read more »

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