Coronavirus: Peterborough churches issued instructions to stop spread of infection at Holy Communion

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Churches in Peterborough have been issued with guidance on how to avoid the possible spread of the Coronavirus during Holy Communion.

Bishop of Peterborough The Rt Revd Donald Allister has sent out Church of England guidelines to all churches in the diocese which are now being read out before services.

Instructions issued to both clergy and worshippers were read out at all Communion services last Sunday and will be verbalised again on Ash Wednesday, on the First Sunday of Lent and on Easter Sunday this year.

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In his letter to city churches, the Bishop said: “I know that I am requiring and advising changes of long-standing practice for some clergy and lay people. I know that this sort of culture change isn’t always easy.

A worker wearing a protective suit reacts in front of an infrared temperature machine in the lobby of the Shanghai Stock Exchange building in Shanghai, China. Picture: (AP Photo)A worker wearing a protective suit reacts in front of an infrared temperature machine in the lobby of the Shanghai Stock Exchange building in Shanghai, China. Picture: (AP Photo)
A worker wearing a protective suit reacts in front of an infrared temperature machine in the lobby of the Shanghai Stock Exchange building in Shanghai, China. Picture: (AP Photo) | PA (Press Association)

“Please do your best to implement these changes speedily and encourage others to do the same.”

The letter sets out “best practice” for Holy Communion, which involves worshippers receiving consecrated bread and wine in memory of the Last Supper taken by Jesus and his disciples.

It warns that “in an extreme health emergency it is possible that stricter rules may be brought in temporarily, but the instructions and guidance which follow are intended to be permanent, and to cover most situations, including the current worries about the Covid-19 Coronavirus”.

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The Bishop adds: “All this may seem negative, but I don’t want to put anyone off receiving Holy Communion, one of our Lord’s greatest gifts to us, a means of grace, our spiritual food and drink.”

Ministers are being instructed to:

. Assure people that “appropriate hygiene precautions are in place, and helping them to understand the Bishop’s guidance for worshippers”.

. Keep an alcohol based hygiene gel or fluid with the communion vessels which must be used to wash the hands of everyone who will touch the communion bread.

. Put the communion bread into the recipient’s hand, not into the mouth.

. Wash the communion vessels in hot water.

Worshippers are being informed that

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. Intinction, dipping the bread into the wine, is “unhygienic, poses a risk to those who are gluten intolerant, and is not to be practised”.

. If they are concerned, they should carry and use a hygiene gel

. If they are worried about receiving infection from the communion cup, or if they have a mouth or throat infection themselves, they should “simply refrain from taking the wine”.

The instructions add: “The Church takes hygiene very seriously. The chances of catching an infection by receiving Holy Communion are very low indeed, but this guidance is issued to reassure, and to reduce the risk even further”.

So far, The number of people who have tested positive for the virus has risen to 13 in the UK./