Over the last 2 weeks, I have been consulting a number of parishioners about the possibility of suspending communion from the Chalice, and the Sign of Peace. At the last staff meeting, we had an discussion of this topic, and I have been in email conversations with Parish Council.
Significant concerns on the chalice extend beyond the “you don’t have to partake” level because there are several people who do have to partake: the extraordinary ministers of holy communion consume the remains after every parishioner, and the priest who consumes when he purifies the chalices. Since people can be contagious before they are showing symptoms, we could potentially be putting others at risk. With regards to the Sign of Peace, we have the same concerns for your health, but also: “what is our anxiety over the possible contagion doing to our ability to pray?” Some folks reported that as the sign of peace neared, they found their anxiety increasing over who might try to insist on exchanging a handshake, or what others might think if they do not offer the customary gesture. Communion is a time of union with God and one another, and ultimately I have come to the conclusion that our anxiety over the flu is affecting our disposition to receive with attention and reverence.
Therefore, beginning immediately, we will offer communion only under the form of the consecrated host, and we will temporarily omit the optional exchange of a Sign of Peace. Communion from the chalice will be available only to those with gluten sensitivities. I urge them to contact me so that we can find a solution that meets their needs. I expect these measures to be temporary, and will continue to examine them on a regular basis. Thank you for your understanding, and concern for the safety of your parish family.