That’s something I never actually though about -probably because never in my adult life have I done anything as silly as this. But anyway. There were concerns raised over the potential for spreading the swine flu virus (or Influenza A better, but swine flu has a much nicer sounds to it, don’t you think?) during the communion service when every single person shares the same chalice to drink wine… oh sorry, I meant the blood of Christ*).
Now, apart from this whole ritual being utterly disgusting, it does indeed pose a relatively serious threat in spreading not just the swine flu, but every single disease any of the church worshippers might have! So, in the context of this swine-flu pandemic (where the pandemic is not so much one of virus, but mostly one of panic) and in a rare display of common sense, the Anglican Church has decided to suspend sharing of chalice at communion. Let’s turn on the irony machine here; this is a piece of what the archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote to all other bishops:
It now seems right to offer guidance at a national level about how the Church of England’s worship might best take into account the interests of public health during the present phase of the swine flu pandemic.
The Department of Health has recently advised us that in a pandemic it makes good sense to take precautions to limit the spread of disease by not sharing common vessels for food and drink. In the light of this advice, we recommend those presiding at Holy Communion suspend the administration of the chalice.
How nice. Outside of a pandemic it doesn’t make sense for the Church of England to limit the spread of diseases. It is OK if the Church of England doesn’t take into account the interests of public health, so long as we are not in a full-blown pandemic. Good…
I find myself wondering about the transubstantiation doctrine and the communion, but this might form the basis for a more extended post later. For now, I will just say that I find it baffling that churchgoers are willing to share a chalice with a number of strangers (with the reasonable possibility of creating a very nice germ pool), resort to this strange form of vampirism, when they literally drink the blood of Christ, and cannibalism, when they eat his body, for no real benefit whatsoever -except perhaps… no wait, I can’t find any benefit at all! Real or imagined. I need some help to come up with so disturbed ideas. So please contribute if you can think of anything…
Perhaps some epidemiological studies can shine some light on the correlation of communion receivers and swine flu prevalence? Now there’s an interesting research idea!