Pass The Peace, Not The Flu

St Nicholas Harvest Altar
Episcopal Life Online – NEWS

If you visit St Nicholas, you may notice that just before distributing the bread and wine during the Eucharist, the priest and his or her assistants may use a little hand sanitizer instead of the more elaborate use of a lavabo (silver bowl for washing fingers) and a white linen napkin seen in other Episcopal churches. It turns out we were way ahead of the trend; we were only being cautious due to several parishioners’ health issues at the time.

However, we’re very enthusiastic huggers and hand-shakers during the “peace,” the moment during the service when we greet everyone else (including you). There’s usually a lot of wandering around making sure that we’ve “gotten” to everybody, before a gentle musical reminder recalls us to our seats for the Liturgy of the Announcements (not an official liturgy, but almost never omitted).

As the flu season gains hold we will probably do more bowing and nodding than hugging and handshaking, but the meaning will remain the same: we’re glad to see everyone at St Nick’s.

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians can expect new rituals in the order of service this flu season in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the seasonal and H1N1 viruses (AKA “swine flu”).

At St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, Tennessee, a simple bow or nod has replaced the passing of the peace’s handshakes and hugs. At Grace Cathedral in Topeka, Kansas, vodka-moistened gauze is used to wipe the communion chalice rather than cloth. Stanford University’s Memorial Church has temporarily suspended use of the communal cup in favor of intinction, or dipping the bread in the wine.

“Though a common practice by most, during Holy Communion congregants are asked to dip the bread in the chalice and refrain from drinking from the cup,” said the Rev. Joanne Sanders, Memorial Church’s Episcopal associate dean and liturgical officer.

In early 2009, the H1N1 virus caused the first global outbreak of influenza in 40 years, infecting more than 300,000 people in 191 countries, and killing 3,917, according to the most recent data issued by the World Health Organization (WHO). Twenty-six U.S. states have reported widespread influenza activity, according to FluView, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s weekly flu report.

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It spreads from person to person and can cause mild to severe illness, and in some cases, can lead to death. In the United States, flu season typically begins in the fall and continues into early spring. In addition to the regular seasonal flu, the H1N1 flu virus also is circulating, according to, a federal government information site operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS).

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, and may be accompanied by headache, tiredness, runny or stuffy nose, chills, body aches, diarrhea and vomiting. Like seasonal flu, novel influenza A (H1N1) infection in humans can vary from mild to severe, the site said.

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