10 liturgical changes inspired by swine flu fear pandemic

Notice in my headline that I wrote “fear pandemic” and not pandemic. In an earlier post, I wondered whether all the worry about swine flu is well founded or not. I can’t tell so far. It seems like regular flu that spreads more easily. While it will cause tragic deaths, it joins many other causes of tragic death. We should be concerned, but perhaps not disproportionately to its effect. But I digress.

The Interwebs are full of possible ways churches will respond to swine flu. Even the normally reputable Washington Post has gotten into the act. When you click the link, make sure read the comments. I hear talk of bishops in the Episcopal Church permitting (or requiring) parishes to offer communion in one kind only (in violation of vows to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church).

Here’s the rub. At Christ Church, we will offer our regular Sunday services according the forms in the Book of Common Prayer, unless machine gun toting troops from the National Guard are preventing the clergy from getting to church. Period.

That said, all this talk has gotten me to thinking of 10 Ways to Make Church Safe During a Fear Pandemic. An anonymous clergy person has assisted me in this project.

10. Presider wears a haz-mat suit. These come in yellow, which is perfect for this Easter season.

9. Narthex turned into a decontamination room, where people are hosed off as they enter & exit church. Since it’s Eastertide, we’ll chant Vidi aquam whilst we do this.

8. Webcast church service, with a note in the service register about how many IP addresses accessed our stream. We can’t let this crisis hurt our ASA.

7. Add healing to service. Maybe people will really pay attention.

6. Use incense — loads and loads of it — to fumigate the building. Add methyl bromide to the mix for good measure. (Who needs ozone anyway.)

5. Shoot communion wafers at congregants from great distance, to avoid contamination.

4. Enhance lavabo procedure.

3. Remind people that holy water could possibly stave off zombies during the plague. This only works if the zombies are, in fact, vampire zombies. The final effects of swine flu are yet unknown.

2. Since neither red wine nor port may have a high enough alcohol content to kill all germs, use something stronger. To comply with the Lambeth Quadrilateral, this may need to be mixed with grape juice.

1. Since shaking hands is about the most effective vector for this contagion, we should ban any kind of touching during the Peace. Instead, we’ll encourage everyone to blow air kisses.

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18 Responses

  1. Jessica Gates says:

    Fill the chalice with Tamiflu?

  2. Karen J. says:

    This is great, but all kidding aside, everyone who serves communion at my parish (including Me, the Presider) will do a quick rub with alcohol gel during the offertory hymn starting this Sunday. I have a lot of elderly folks in my congregation and they’re a little frightened right now, and passing the Peace is a bit of a germfest.

  3. Peter Carey says:

    These are awesome, so funny…

    …I had seen that thurible, just amazing.

    I like the Tamiflu in the chalice idea!

    Peter Carey

  4. peoriapriest says:

    You write: I hear talk of bishops in the Episcopal Church permitting (or requiring) parishes to offer communion in one kind only (in violation of vows to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church).

    Not to be too serious, but the Prayer Book is quite specific that under some circumstances, “it is suitable to administer the Sacrament in one kind only” (BCP, p. 457).

    Great post

  5. Scott Gunn says:

    Peoriapriest, that rubric is from the Ministration to the Sick. Just below that, on the same page, it also says that one can receive the “all the benefits of Communion…even though the Sacrament is not received with the mouth” in cases of severe illness. But I do not think anyone would advocate such an understanding for a public worship gathering.

    In the directions for Holy Eucharist, the rubric says, “Opportunity is always to be given to every communicant to receive the consecrated Bread and Wine separately. But the Sacrament may be received in both kinds simultaneously, in a manner approved by the bishop” (page 407-408).

    Sure, people may choose not to receive wine, but it is to be offered. Not even a bishop has the authority to suspend rubrics of the prayer book.

    If it came to that, I would explain to people — as the presider — that they may choose not to receive wine. But I would offer it. There are ways to offer wine (the presider intincts and then places the bread carefully on the communicant’s tongue) that are completely sanitary.

    Interestingly enough, all these conversations around swine flu practices should apply to every week, since the common cold and flu are always circulating. It’s just that we’re not usually stirred into a media-driven fear frenzy.

  6. Ernest McAfee says:

    I hope that everyone realizes that the swine flu is God’s judgement on us for not keeping kosher. Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. I’m just not sure why God waited so long.

  7. Sheri says:

    While being concerned about the people who might become ill from this flu, please keep praying for the MILLIONS suffering from malaria around the world, the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS sick and eventually dying of schistosomiasis, and the 18 MILLION infected with onchocerciasis (“river blindness”)….

  8. Phil Snyder says:


    In honor of your insight, I will be grilling pork chops for dinner and eating a cheese burger for lunch :).

    Phil Snyder

  9. Marci Pounders says:

    This is hysterical! I love it! Maybe you could entitle it “Mass Hysteria?”

    I’m with you Sheri, in remembering there are many more (and much worse) pandemics at play in our world than this one. They just happen to occur in countries where such illnesses get less media hype.

    The Rev. Marci Pounders, BCC

  10. Lisa Fox says:

    Pure inspiration, Scott!

  11. But, Scott, we already DO all of those things at All Saints’ Church, Bellevue. I’m thinking ahead to whether we ought to ban Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs from the animal blessings in October.

  12. Marge Mathewson says:

    What a great excuse to get rid of the Sunday Morning Cocktail Party – also known as Passing the Peace! Let’s go back to SAYING: “The Peace of the Lord etc” to our IMMEDIATE neighbors and not EVER EVER leaving the pew to hug/kiss/make a date with ANYONE. This especially is aimed at clergy who feel the need to hug everyone in the church during this time as well as at the end of the service!

  13. Catherine Ambos says:

    NO! Not air kisses! You could spread droplets containing gazillions of virus particles!

    (The potential problem with swine flu is the possibility of its mutating in the human host and becoming more virulent. Wash hands, take reasonable precautions, make sure you have your towel and DON’T PANIC!)

  14. paula says:

    A gassho is elegant AND ecumenical….just don’t bonk heads in a crowded aisle !

  15. Raymond Hodgkinson says:

    I can remember during confirmation classes (many decades agoi) asking an elderly Archdeacon about the risks of colds etc. from the chalice.
    He looked at me sadly, and gently said,
    “If your faith is so weak that you don’t believe that the blessed sacrements are safe to take, then maybe you should reconsider whether you are really ready to take communion at all?”


  16. Donna Dambrot says:

    Love the liturgical colors for hazmat suits!! Brilliant! Will certainly be in Almy’s next catalog!

  1. May 1, 2009

    […] This post was Twitted by philritchie – Real-url.org […]

  2. May 1, 2009

    […] Scott Gunn has a solution to the Swine Flu hysteria sweeping our churches. You can read it here. You won’t want to miss this one — it involves Hazmat-inspired clerical […]

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