Living Faithfully in a World of Pandemics

March 4, 2020
A Letter from Bishop Benfield

The discussions surrounding the presence of the coronavirus among us have brought lots of questions about how the church responds to health emergencies. I will leave it to the health professionals to provide appropriate guidelines on how each of us can protect our health. From what I have read, the best advice is to use common sense, as we are called to do each year when flu season arrives. If you want to see health guidelines, go to the Centers for Disease Control website. We also have on our website and below a bulletin insert and a CDC prevention poster that you can print for your congregation.

My focus is on how communities of faith can respond. First, do not use this virus—or any illness for that matter—as an excuse to be fearful of people unlike yourselves (for example, someone of a different nationality). During the first years of the AIDS epidemic we saw the demonization that occurred when entire classes of people were looked upon as “dangerous.”

As we gather in worship, my advice is to be sensitive to your own health and the health of others. If you do not feel well or suspect that you might be infectious from any illness, keep away from other people. If you are worried about becoming ill from receiving Holy Communion, it is certainly okay to receive only the consecrated Bread. It might come as a surprise, but intinction (dipping the consecrated Bread in the chalice) poses a health risk from germ-filled fingers and hands that drinking from the chalice does not. By the way, there are no documented cases of people becoming ill from drinking from a common chalice.

In summary, remain calm, do not be afraid of others, and use common sense in matters of germ transmission and health. As always, check on people who might be ill from any cause, and see if they can use assistance. In the end, that is the way that we Christians respond any time we see people in need. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the Great Commandment reminds us.

Larry Benfield