Caring for Ourselves and Each Other
Over the past few days, I’ve read many letters from bishops, deans and clergy to their parishes that contain advice about coronavirus. The best is one written by my friend, the Very Rev. Steven Thomason, who is a dean in Seattle and a physician. He gives excellent advice on prevention. St. John's Cathedral will be following the his advice. ~Kate+
A Message from Dean Thomason—Community Gathering and Viral Infections
While I believe the media have disproportionately reported hyperbolic news of the coronavirus (aka COVID-19, SARS-Co-V-2) outbreak, I have received communication from several in the cathedral community expressing concern about its potential impact on us in the Pacific Northwest, and I so I writing today to address various aspects of our common life, and ways we have and will be adapting in light of the concern.
First, as a physician, let me reiterate what hopefully you’ve heard before (even if it is not headline news)—you are much more at risk for contracting or transmitting the common flu virus than you are of coronavirus, and getting the flu vaccine will reduce the risk to you and others. In fact, you are statistically about 50 million times more likely to contract the flu right now than you are the coronavirus. Of course, that statistic may change in the coming weeks, but there is no evidence suggesting that we should curtail worship attendance or cancel other gatherings at this point. But there are some precautions we are taking to minimize risk to one another. Here are a few:
Washing your hands properly and often is the best preventive method to reducing infectious diseases like coronavirus. Alternatively, or additionally, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers (minimum 60% alcohol) on your hands. The Eucharistic ministers have been doing this for years; we now have large containers of hand sanitizer in the rear of the nave for your use. We encourage you to use them.
Exchanging the Peace. This ancient practice is an important part of our liturgy, but please know that bowing to one another, and greeting the other verbally without handshake or hug, is an acceptable alternative. In this hypersensitive time, we might all consider adopting the practice of bowing.
Refrain from Intinction. Many believe that dipping their bread into the cup of wine is preferable to drinking from the common cup, but the scientific research proves just the opposite. Intinction is the most risky way to partake of communion. For now, we ask that you not intinct since hands will touch the cup rim and sometimes the wine as well, increasing the risk for all who follow. For those not inclined to drink from the common cup, please receive communion in one kind (the bread).
Stay home if you are sick. This is perhaps the best way you can care for others, by reducing the risk of exposure if you are infectious. Remember, we livestream the Sunday service.
Clergy greeting after services. We always delight in greetings folks on leaving the cathedral, and will continue to do so. Greeting us with a bow (as at the peace) is perfectly acceptable. Good will can be conveyed in a variety of ways, so do what feels comfortable to you.
I suspect we will hear more dire news in the days and weeks to come, and it is natural enough for us to be drawn into that orbit. As a cathedral community, we will be guided by the CDC and our public health professionals, but I encourage us all to avoid the impulse to reactive fear. Coronavirus is a relatively weak viral infection for most. Use common sense, proper health techniques, and access the health care system readily if you think you may be ill. I am,Your Brother in Christ,
The Very Reverend Steven L. Thomason
Dean and Rector