This year’s flu season is said to be the worst since 2009. We need to be cautious. I advise you to use common sense during worship without letting their precautions get in the way of participating fully in the life of the church.
There are a million ways to get the flu, so I prefer not to focus on Communion and drinking or untinting from the chalice. There is little evidence that sharing wine during the Eucharist poses a great risk of spreading illness.
Rather, love thy neighbor. If you are sick, or feeling sick, stay home if you can. Yes, I’m a huge advocate on attending church every Sunday, but it is okay to miss a Sunday at church if you have any reason to believe that you might be catching the flu or are capable of spreading it.
For those who are well enough to attend services, it also is fine if they choose a friendly wave instead of a handshake as a sign of peace. Since we understand that Christ is fully present in both the bread and wine, you may choose to refrain from receiving the wine until the flu season has passed, if you feel called to do so.
The clergy and staff and I don’t want to discourage people from seeing this as a communal activity that’s meant to be part of our regular life, but we want you to be healthy and to decide for yourselves what is right for you during the flu season.
Peak flu season typically occurs sometime from November through March, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that flu activity now is widespread across the country.
The influenza virus can cause mild to severe respiratory illness that in some cases can lead to hospitalization or death, especially among high-risk populations, such as young children, older adults and people with certain health conditions. Symptoms may include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
The CDC’s top recommendation for preventing the flu is to receive the vaccine, even in years when the particular flu strain may seem more resistant to vaccination. Their otherrecommendations for preventing the flu’s spread include avoiding close contact with sick people, covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands with soap and water and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
As a clergy member I learned long ago to wash my hands before and after every worship service. Let’s be good to ourselves and good to each other and stay healthy as a community.
With love and prayers,