Worship Sites Seek to Keep the Faithful Flu-Free

April 30, 2009

Author: Jay Lindsay

Source: Examiner.com

Wire Service: AP


When worshippers clasp hands to "pass the peace" or share the communion cup and offering plates, religious leaders around the country want to be sure they don't also pass on swine flu.

Catholic churches in many dioceses with confirmed cases of the flu will not offer communion wine, and parishioners have been urged to bow or nod instead of offering a handshake.

Imams have been told the Friday communal prayer can be canceled and done privately. One rabbi is making hand sanitizer available to stave off germs that could be passed when the Torah is touched as it is carried throughout the synagogue.

In San Antonio, the University United Methodist Church ordered more than 3,000 individually wrapped communion wafers and juice packets for this week to avoid having to skip communion, which many Protestant churches serve the first Sunday of the month.

"In a time of fear, we just wanted people to have assurance we were doing everything we could do," said Shauna Forkenbrock, a church spokeswoman.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state officials have confirmed dozens of cases of swine flu across the country, though just one death in the United States has been reported, in Houston. In most confirmed U.S. cases, the patients are recovering.

But with warnings that the virus is spreading, houses of worship are cutting back on activities that require close contact.