Weekly Reflection – 26 July – 1 August 2009

Posted on: Sunday 26th July 2009

Coughs and sneezes…

On Monday afternoon I attended a briefing at Westminster City Hall about the local strategy and response to the current Swine Flu Pandemic. Flu Pandemics seem to happen, on average, every forty years or so. Some of you may recall the Asian Flu of the 1950s which killed millions; fewer now will have any direct memory of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic which is estimated to have killed up to 100 million people. The good news for those over 52 years old is that if they had Asian Flu in the 1950s they may well have some level of immunity to the present virus. The bad news is that the virus has now got a real grip and many have already experienced a short sharp burst of high temperatures, aches, pains, coughs and sneezes – usually over in 48 hours, thankfully. Antiviral drugs may help a little if taken in time, but may also have unwelcome side effects.

Towards the end of the week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued guidance to the National Church about what constitutes ‘good practice’ in these uncharted days. Cleanliness and sensible basic hygiene seems to be the order of the day – and though we are always scrupulous about these things at St Paul’s, it may be worth just reassuring our congregation that hands are always carefully washed before holy vessels and holy things are handled. One specific piece of guidance was the discontinuation, for a while, of the sharing of the chalice at Communion, and we will, for the time being, observe this. Again, it is worth reminding members of the congregation that to receive Communion ‘in one kind’ (i.e. the bread only) is nonetheless fully to make your communion – though the practice of sharing both bread and cup is obviously preferable. We will resume our normal practice as soon as we reasonably can.

However, amidst all of this anxiety about the spread of infection and the need for self-preservation, it may also be worth reminding one another of one other piece of ‘good practice’! Our calling as Christians is to servanthood in a religion that places love and service of neighbour on a par with love of God. So, lest we become totally consumed with selfish anxiety about our own wellbeing, it is worth remembering that one opportunity this pandemic may present us with is the chance to attend to the needs of the sick, to keep an eye open for our neighbours, to support those who are in need and to reach out to the frail and the needy. If the clergy or the parish office staff can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Fr Alan Gyle, Vicar