A message from Bishop Martin in respect of Coronavirus (COVID-19):
“Our first response to the spread of the Coronavirus is to care for those who are most vulnerable, and to ensure practices, as best as possible, that will not contribute to infection. We need in particular to look out for those who do not have good support networks to ensure they receive the help and care they need. The tendency evidenced from behaviours like panic buying is for some people to think just of themselves – we are called to behave differently.
I realise there is a great deal of uncertainty among us as clergy and among our congregations, so I want to give advice for clarity and will update this as necessary.
These are basic practices I would now strongly advise we should all be adopting, particularly in relation to worship.
• We should all be more attentive to our normal hygiene routine of washing our hands thoroughly and often with soap and water or hand sanitiser (60% alcohol).
• At communion the priest and those who assist should wash with hand sanitiser before and after distribution.
• Communion should be only in one kind. I realise this is not yet the national guidance, but I would rather us take this step now and become used to it than regret that we did not take it sooner.
• The practice of intinction, dipping the bread into the wine, is not an option. It is an unhealthy practice in any event and should not happen. I realise it has spread widely in our churches in recent years, as an honest but misguided attempt to protect ourselves from others’ germs, or them from ours. Intinction actually presents greater risks than drinking from the same cup. Unhygienic fingers and fingernails all too often dip into the wine. Small pieces of bread break off, creating a real hazard for those who are gluten intolerant.
• No receiving the host on the tongue since there is a greater danger of passing on infection by this means.
• The peace should be passed without contact. I realise this, along with these other requirements, will seem difficult to many and urge you to develop local practices where you convey the sense of the unity of the body through other gestures – there seem to be plenty of ideas on how to do this.
• Holy water stoups should be emptied and remain so for the time being.
The Church of England’s team for Health and Social Policy is responsible for updates on the Coronavirus. They are working collaboratively with the Government and Public Health officials. The situation will be kept under close review and both the Diocesan office and my office are being updated regularly.
There is a dedicated page on the Church of England’s website which contains up to date advice. The news page on the diocesan website is the place to go for up to date advice www.cofesuffolk.org/news
Since information is changing rapidly please do check the dedicated website page for regular updates
I want to thank you for your cooperation and emphasise that these are precautionary measures that will be removed once the Government gives the all clear.
We continue to pray for all those people caught up in the coronavirus situation, for those who are sick and for those who care for them, and for those responsible for planning for our care.”
Last Updated: 9th March 2020