Is your congregation taking any extraordinary measures to avoid or limit the spread of swine flu (aka, H1N1 flu in deference to The Vast Pork Rib Conspiracy)?
Several Portland-area congregations are adjusting their rituals to prevent the spread of H1N1 flu. So far, the faithful keep coming to services.
The priest at St. Juan Diego Catholic Parish in Northwest Portland still consecrates wine and bread for Communion, but parishioners have given up sharing the wine and receiving wafers on their tongues. They no longer hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer, and the handshakes and hugs that used to accompany the “sign of peace” during Mass are now simple bows.
Many Protestant churches, synagogues and mosques are also advising congregations to take what are becoming the usual precautions — installing hand sanitizers, encouraging hand-washing and reminding people to stay home if they’re sick — but many individual communities are taking additional steps.
Lake Oswego United Methodist Church has adopted “holy fist bumps” during the sign of peace, says the Rev. Steve Sprecher.
Gresham United Methodist Church encourages members to wash during the service. “We are offering people a squirt of the disinfectant Purell while they are in line for Communion,” the Rev. Jim Parr Philipson says.
Portland synagogues take similar precautions. Since celebrating the Jewish High Holy Days in September, members of Congregation Shaarie Torah in Northwest Portland have substituted fist bumps for handshakes and hugs, says Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman, who was nursing a cold last month. A few in the congregation have come down with H1N1 flu, but they’re staying home, he says. “People are pretty astute about this. It’s not brain surgery.”