H1N1 puts cleanliness next to godliness

Published November 1, 2009

Decisions about how to avoid the potential spread of H1N1 flu are being made diocese-by-diocese across the Anglican Church of Canada.

So far, most Anglican churches in Canada are still offering the common cup at communion while affirming people who decide not to receive the cup.

Bishops and leaders in the ecclesiastical province of Ontario consulted with medical officials so that they could offer some informed advice to dioceses. Archbishop Caleb Lawrence, then metropolitan of the province, said they concluded that suspending the use of the common cup doesn’t seem to be necessary at this stage. “We’re convinced that with careful use of the chalice by the one administering [communion], there is no danger to health.” He added that, “We may want to revisit that again.”

One of the medical officials consulted for these recommendations was David Gould, the Sault Ste. Marie physician whose 1987 study concluded that the use of the common cup posed no significant health hazard under normal circumstances.

Still, some parishes, are choosing to withdraw the cup from communion.

Dr. Gould’s research, updated and revised in 2000, advised against the use of intinction. The practice of dipping bread into the communion wine, he wrote, does not diminish the threat of infection and may actually increase it because hands are as likely to be a source of infection (and often more so) than the mouth.

Archbishop Lawrence has asked congregants to avoid physical contact when sharing the peace at eucharist, but that advice is unpopular. “They like to shake hands and hug and squeeze and everything else….”


  • Leigh Anne Williams

    Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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