Saturday, September 26, 2009

H1N1 Flu: A Guide for Community and Faith-based Organizations

The time has come for all of us to consider our place of worship and our faith community in regards to the H1N1 (swine) flu. If you click on title you will go to the federal governments guidelines for faith communities in regards to the H1N1 flu. Some states are already implementing guidelines for their state's faith communities. I am unaware of any guidelines issued by the State of Texas.

Communion can be an issue when a common cup is used. Precautions may need to be taken. Passing whole loaves of bread from which a piece is broken can also be a problem if people need to grasp the loaf to break off a piece. My church being Baptist does not use a common cup or loaves of bread usually. Nowadays, we use individual plastic cups that hold only a thimbleful of grape juice (no wine in a Baptist church), and tiny squares of compressed "bread". Those that prepare the wafers and cups must be mindful of their own health. Hand washing is still the best preventative.

I think the biggest issue for worshipers of all faiths is the closeness to a great many people. Most worship services bring people into close proximity. The flu virus can be easily passed in such an environment. The individual must be aware that "he is his brother's keeper" and refrain from attending when the individual feels the least bit unwell. Church leaders can remind their congregation of this obligation.

Wearing a mask is not particularly effective to prevent flu unless it is worn by someone who has the flu. Part of the problem is that masks lead to a false sense of security and a failure to wash your hands as frequently as you should. Hand washing is the number one preventative.

In my own church, great store is place on shaking hands with those around you at the beginning of the service. This is considered a way to promote fellowship. Handshaking is an ideal way to promote the incidence of the flu. I think greeting others with some phase such as "Peace be unto you" is far better.

If some form of greeting is wanted for newcomers to the place of worship. I suggest using healthy seniors as greeters. People over 65 are less susceptible to the flu and well-suited to greet both members and newcomers. Of course, anyone who has had the flu and recovered fully would be an ideal greeter.

The younger clergy need to be mindful of their own health. Standing at the door shaking hands with congregants as the leave is not the best idea now. Places of worship do not need their leaders in the hospital. The worshipers should understand the substitution of an older person to bid them farewell.

The H1N1 flu has not proved as dangerous as first feared, but it should not be ignored. Seasonal flu is not all that pleasant either. Get vaccinated and take reasonable precautions, so that we all can worship in good health.

H1N1 flu virus by CDC

H1N1 Flu: A Guide for Community and Faith-based Organizations

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