Shrine Flu: Churches Nix Communion Over H1N1 Fears

Churches alter practices to prevent spread of swine flu

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    Churches believe in the power of prayer, but just in case, they're skipping the wine.

    Far be it from us to question the protective powers of any Higher Deity, but if you want to stay healthy, you might want to pass on that holy chalice the next time it comes around.

    In fact, several Chicago-area churches are taking steps to prevent the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus, a.k.a. the "swine flu," by not offering the communion cup at masses.

    "We've discontinued offering communion from the cup temporarily, under the recommendation of the parish nurse," Rev. Don McLaughlin (of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Wheaton) told the Chicago Catholic News.

    And before the ministers at St. Benedict Church bring their hands together in prayer, they sanitize them first, according to Rev. Bob Beaven.

    While devout disinfected hands may sound amusing, it's a very smart idea, says the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

    "Some religious traditions and rituals emphasize eating and drinking from communal dishes and vessels. Flu may spread in these conditions. If flu is circulating widely in your community, faith and community leaders may consider adjusting such practices in order to reduce the spread of flu."

    The CDC goes on to advise faith-based communities to refrain from shaking hands or hugging, to remain a respectable distance away from each other, and—most importantly—to stay home if they have a flu-like illness.

    Rev. Dan Mayall, pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, assures churchgoers that this change is only temporary.

    "We'll go back to it eventually," Mayall said.

    Matt Bartosik is a Chicago native and a social media sovereign.