Advice for parishes on Covid-19 (novel coronavirus)

This page includes guidance for clergy and parishes on the novel Coronavirus, now named Covid-19.

Though there are very few cases of the virus confirmed in the UK, we know many people are feeling very anxious, and there have been several requests for guidance on administering Holy Communion.

General guidance is given below. Please note that the Church of England is not presently recommending suspending the chalice at Holy Communion, as happened with the outbreak of swine flu in 2009. That followed advice from the Department of Health not to share common vessels. No such advice has been issued in this case so far. The threat posed by COVID-19 has been assessed by the Chief Medical Officer as ‘moderate’. This permits the Government to plan for all eventualities. The risk to individuals remains low.

If that changes as the situation in the UK progresses, then clergy will be notified and this advice updated accordingly.

The global picture

The World Health Organisation has declared that this is a public health emergency of international concern; the UK government is closely monitoring the spread of the Coronavirus and is taking action at home and abroad. The risk to the public is currently set at moderate so that the government can plan for all eventualities. However, the risk to individuals remains low and comprehensive plans to quarantine and treat those affected are in place.

Any change to this public health advice will be published at www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Holy Communion

While it is our faith that the sacraments are means of grace and not of sickness, they are physically ministered, and we should take physical care. As well as the specific concern about Covid-19, this advice is generally applicable for all infectious disease.

  1. Wash Hands: Priests presiding at the Eucharist, communion administrators and servers are reminded to wash hands. We strongly advise the use of hand sanitisers immediately before the Preparation of the Table and Eucharistic prayer.
  2. Do not intinct: Because hands can be as much a source of pathogens as lips, intinction is no safer than drinking and can introduce germs into the cup. Intinction (dipping the bread into the wine) can also threaten those with certain immune or allergic conditions. For instance, those with gluten intolerance for whom traces of gluten can be hazardous are at greater risk when other communicants have dipped their communion wafer into the wine.
  3. Consider receiving Holy Communion in one Kind: It is Anglican teaching that to receive the sacrament in one kind only (ie. just the bread) is to receive the sacrament in its entirety. The celebrant should always receive from the Chalice. Should a communicant feel ill or not wish to drink from the chalice then he or she ought to receive the consecrated bread alone. There is no need at this stage to cease offering the chalice to the congregation.
  4. The Peace: At this time there is no need to refrain from sharing the Peace, though it should be remembered that the Peace can be shared without physical contact. If the virus spreads widely, then further advice on this may be issued.
  5. Visiting: Pastoral visitors to homes and hospitals should observe all precautions in personal hygiene before and after such visits.

Prayer: Lord, we pray for  those infected by the coronavirus in China and around the world, for those who care for them, for health specialists and the authorities who are working to halt the spread of infection, and for all who at this time are feeling anxious, especially those with friends and family in China.

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