ELCA Resource Addresses 'Worship in Times of Public Health Concerns'

11/2/2009 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The declaration of a national emergency has raised
a number of questions across the United States about safely assembling
for school and worship during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Worship and Liturgical
Resources answered many of those questions in a resource titled "Worship
in Times of Public Health Concerns."
     U.S. President Barack Obama signed an Oct. 24 proclamation that "the
2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in the United States constitutes a national
emergency." The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services had declared
a public health emergency three times since April 26 in response to the
2009 H1N1 influenza virus.
     ELCA Worship and Liturgical Resources, part of the church's Office
of the Presiding Bishop, issued the resource in April, shortly after the
first declaration of an emergency.
     "In times of anxiety about the spread of such pathogens as
influenza, churches are advised to follow the advice of the CDC (Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention) with regard to gatherings of people,"
the resource notes.
     "At this time, it is not necessary to cancel worship services or
stop gathering around the means of grace. However, worship leaders should
take some time to be well informed of the situation in their local areas
and to examine worship practices with regard to the spread of pathogens,
perhaps making small changes that will help alleviate the anxiety of the
gathered assembly," it advised.
     Some of those changes could include making alcohol-based hand
sanitizers available during worship, altering the "passing of the peace"
practice and being creative in the distribution of elements in the Lord's
     The resource recommended against intinction -- the administration of
the sacrament by communicants dipping the bread into the wine -- in favor
of communicants drinking from a common cup.
     "Keep in mind that our hands carry more pathogens than our mouths.
Use of the common cup is preferable to intinction, especially if
sacramental wine with a higher alcohol content is used. Sacramental wine
has an alcohol content of 18 percent and has antiseptic qualities," it
     The resource concluded that worship may become an essential response
to a pandemic. "During this time of anxiety around a new form of
influenza, the Sunday assembly of Christians around word and sacrament is
a particularly important sign of resurrection hope in the midst of fear
and trouble."
-- -- --
     The resource, "Worship in Times of Public Health Concerns," is linked
to http://www.ELCA.org/Growing-In-Faith/Worship.aspx on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog


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