Clergy disregard flu advice

26 August 2009

by Ed Beavan

MANY CLERGY plan to disregard the advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, given last month, about not using a shared chalice during communion to prevent the spread of swine flu (News, 24 July).

The Archbishops suggested priestly intinc­tion instead, and urged caution during the sharing of the Peace, advising people not to shake hands.

It has emerged, though, that many priests have been ignoring the advice now that the number of new swine-flu cases has receded, and are allowing communicants to receive in both kinds.

The Revd David Wheeler, Priest-in-Charge of Irlam in the diocese of Manchester, said it was likely he would return to the use of the chalice and the normal sharing of the Peace on Sunday.

“We have a standing committee meeting on Friday, and will discuss it. I suspect they will re­commend we go back to communion in two kinds, and I’m aware anecdotally that other churches are doing the same.

“I have enormous sympathy for the Archbishops in all of this, but I suspect that pressure was put on them by the Government.

“In the diocese of Manchester we got very strong advice, to use gel going into church, no shaking of hands after church and in the sharing of the Peace, and cleaning the altar rail and seats after the service.

“I don’t know for sure, but my guess is these protocols were formed after the avian-flu outbreak, but that was a very different beast from this.”

The Revd David Thomas, Rector of Armitage in the diocese of Lichfield, said he would like to return to giving com­munion in both kinds as soon as possible.

He said the advice given by the Archbishops was “characteristic of what is happening in the Church today, where you get these edicts from the centre and everyone jumps”.

A spokesman for the Church of England said that the Archbishops’ advice was only recommendations, and acknowledged that not all clergy would want to follow them.

Last week, the Methodist Church issued guidance encouraging people with the virus who are housebound to take part in online worship, or services on the radio. It also urged clergy to phone or email those with the virus rather than carry out home visits.

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