As people around the world are watching with concern as the COVID -19, coronavirus story unfolds, the Rev Laish Boyd, Bishop of Anglican Diocese of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, is urging church members to take precautionary measures to help stop the spread of the viral disease.
“As responsible Christians, let us be aware of what is happening on our planet. We have to admit that there are infections out there which spread quickly, especially since travel is a normal part of life worldwide,” he said in an open letter to the Anglican community.
“We must take this seriously and respond appropriately from an informed position, and without panic. As a Church, let us be a part of smooth progress forward, even as we help to respond to the present challenge. The Most Rev’d Howard Gregory, Archbishop of the West Indies, shared these words with us this week: ‘... it is imperative that the Church be responsible in the context of this threat to our national health and function, in her worship and liturgical practice, in ways that promote healthy hygiene and as a way of partnering with the national effort to minimise, if not eliminate, the prospect of...(a larger crisis)’.”
In the Diocese, Bishop Boyd said, please note the following which are temporary measures designed as a part of responsible Christian stewardship:
• Intinction will be suspended until further notice. People may receive the Body of Christ in one kind only, that is in your hand. The Church’s teaching is that the whole Christ is received, whether one receives only the consecrated bread or both Body and Blood.
• At this time, we will continue to use the common cup. Those who are uncomfortable with this may receive in one kind, that is, the Body of Christ only.
• Hand shaking and hugging during the Greeting of Peace may continue. If you are uncomfortable then bump fists, bump elbows or bow reverently.
Additionally, Bishop Boyd advises the following protocols:
• Practice frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitisers (minimum 60 percent alcohol based sanitisers).
• Try to keep dirty hands away from your face.
• When coughing or sneezing, please cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow, or use tissue and dispose of same immediately and wash your hands.
• Avoid close contact with persons who are coughing, sneezing or display any symptoms of respiratory illness.
• If you are coughing, sneezing, et cetera., then refrain from hugging or hand shaking at the peace, and receive communion in only one kind, that is, the Body of Christ, only, in your hand.
• Everyone should seek to boost his/her immune system.
• Clergy, chalice bearers and servers should ensure that they wash their hands before and after services and, where possible, sanitize their hands before and after the administration of Holy Communion.
• Hand rails and altar rails should be cleaned before and after service.
• Those handling money should take extra sanitising precautions.
• If possible, place hand sanitisers at the entrances of all churches.
• Holy water stoops should be emptied daily (the water being poured into the ground, as in our liturgical and devotional practice). In the blessing of holy water salt is always used. For the time being we will use a little more salt than usual to increase the curative properties of the water.
“In the face of what could be frightening, worrying and disconcerting, let us remain positive and hopeful. Let us seek to be fully informed by reading and by keeping up with the news,” said Bishop Boyd.