St Giles in Common with Anglican churches across the UK has been advised not to share the chalice at Communion services. When the Flu first ‘hit’ in the summer there was concern that large public gatherings could enable Swine Flu to spread faster than health services could cope with and so The Church of England issued guidelines that ‘those presiding at Holy Communion suspend the administration of the chalice during this wave of pandemic flu’. And so St Giles has followed those guidelines. This past week, The Diocese has considered the issue again, and has again asked us to not share a common cup at Communion. To quote from their letter:
‘A number of you have asked in recent days whether the current situation regarding the ‘Common Cup’ could be reviewed. At a meeting with senior staff a few days ago the decision was made to take further advice from those dealing with the pandemic locally – The County’s Emergency Plan Dept and local Health Officials. Their advice was that whilst Nottingham is no longer currently a ‘hot spot’, the actual pandemic itself continues, and that there is still anticipated a second wave of the virus during the autumn/winter. We are advised that it would be unwise to change the measures put in place at this time.’
I realise not everyone is happy with this decision, but it should be remembered that Communion is the time in the churches life when among other things we celebrate the fact that we are all one in Christ Jesus, and that these measures have been put in place for the common good. As someone who has suffered first hand from Swine Flu I know how unpleasant it can be! That said I recognise there are deeply felt emotions on this issue. As the bishops have asked parish clergy to remind their congregations the Prayer Book does allow for the giving of wine at Communion to be suspended in exceptional circumstances:
The administration of Holy Communion in the Church of England is principally governed by section 8 of the Sacrament Act 1547, which provides that ‘… the… most blessed Sacrament be hereafter commonly delivered and ministered unto the people… under both the kinds, that is to say of bread and wine, except necessity otherwise require…’
And such a decision is not taken lightly.
Is there a compromise?
We will review the options at our next PCC meeting, alternatives to sharing the chalice might be to use individual glasses for each communicant, or placing a drop of wine on each wafer before distributing, or the person giving out communion dipping the wafer in the wine before placing in the hands of those coming to receive. If you have strong feelings – let us know!
Yours in Him
Cartoon courtesy of ASBOJesus