In light of concerns over COVID-19, the Anglican church in The Bahamas has temporarily suspended intinction, the practice of dipping consecrated bread in wine during communion, and the Roman Catholic Church, meanwhile, has announced the temporary suspension of the drinking of wine during communion.
Anglican Bishop of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Laish Boyd, in a pastoral letter, informed that the church will continue to serve communion wine from a common cup, but noted that those who are uncomfortable with that can refrain and only have bread.
“As responsible Christians, let us be aware of what is happening on our planet,” Boyd stated.
“We have to admit that there are infections out there which spread quickly, especially since travel is a normal part of life worldwide.
“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.”
Boyd said Reverend Howard Gregory, archbishop of the West Indies, noted “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”.
Boyd’s statement continued: “In the diocese, please note the following, which are temporary measures designed as a part of our responsible Christian stewardship: Intinction will be suspended until further notice.
“[At] this time, we will continue to use the common cup. Persons who are uncomfortable with this may receive in one kind, that is, the body of Christ only.
“Handshaking and hugging during the Greeting of Peace may continue. If you are uncomfortable, then bump fists, bump elbows or bow reverently.”
Boyd also noted that clergy, chalice bearers and servers should wash their hands before and after services, as well as sanitize their hands before and after administering communion.
He said handrails and altar rails should be cleaned before and after service, and that holy water stoops should be emptied daily.
“In the face of what could be frightening, worrying and disconcerting, let us remain positive and hopeful,” he said.
“Let us seek to be fully informed by reading and by keeping up with the news.”
In a statement, the Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder announced that physical contact such as handshaking during the passing of peace, and holding hands during the recitation of the ‘Our Father’ is temporarily suspended.
As well, communion is now being distributed in the hand and not on the tongue.
Eucharistic ministers should thoroughly wash their hands before and after the distribution of communion.
The celebrant is to use a verbal greeting and refrain from physical contact while greeting parishioners before and after mass.
Additionally, parishioners who have respiratory flu-like symptoms are encouraged to stay at home.
Pinder stated, “It is essential that we maintain good hygiene always.”
He said The Bahamas is not in a crisis, but noted it is important to “exercise an abundance of caution and to be proactive and responsible in the face of this current reality”.
As of yesterday, there were over 105,000 cases of COVID-19 across the globe. Over 3,600 people have died, with the majority of deaths in mainland China, where the virus originated late last year.
In the United States, there were at least 450 confirmed cases across 32 states and 21 deaths.