Swine flu: Church bans wine at communion

CHURCHES in Essex have been ordered to ban the consumption of wine at Holy Communion as part of a raft of measures to prevent the spread of swine flu.

Roddy Ashworth

CHURCHES in Essex have been ordered to ban the consumption of wine at Holy Communion as part of a raft of measures to prevent the spread of swine flu.

The move comes just weeks after the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr John Gladwin, outlawed the use of holy water when making the sign of the cross in case it helped the potentially fatal disease spread.

The drinking of wine from a communal chalice - which represents the Blood of Christ - is a key part of the Christian Holy Communion service, which is based around the symbolism of the Last Supper in which Jesus shared a meal with his 12 disciples.

Congregations will now only receive the solid element of the sacrament, the wafer or “bread” that represents the Body of Christ.

In a statement to individual members of the congregation of Chelmsford Cathedral, the Dean the Very Revd Peter Judd wrote that in outlawing the Communion Chalice, clergy were following suggested arrangements made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

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Even eating wafers dipped into the sacred wine - a process known as Tincture - is to be forbidden, the Dean added.

Yesterday Chris Newlands, the Bishop's chaplain, said that the possibility of using individual “mini-chalices” for worshippers had been considered but had been ruled in breach of Ecclesiastical law.

“These are usually called 'individual cups', but the way the Church of England has always administered Communion is in the common chalice - to use individual cups is to take away from the unity which is represented by that.

“There is a doctrine called Concomitance which states that the fullness of Christ is present in either or both the breads or the wine.

“It is called 'receiving communion in one kind'.”

Mr Newlands added: “We don't know how long this will last. The chances are it may be a while.

“We want to reassure congregations we are doing everything we can to protect them, and especially the most vulnerable.”

Earlier this month Bishop John issued a directive of seven measures aimed at stopping the spread of swine flu among congregations in Essex, including “restraining physical contact”.

He also recommended that clergy should not visit victims of Swine flu unless they were close to death, and that then they should wear sterile gloves, aprons, and face masks.