Churches, syn­a­gogues change rit­u­als as pre­cau­tion

The Kansas City Star - - Local - BY ERIC ADLER [email protected]­

Amid con­cern over coro­n­avirus, the Arch­dio­cese of Kansas City in Kansas, which rep­re­sents some 118 Catholic parishes in the state, late Wed­nes­day set out a new list of 20 di­rec­tives to be acted on im­me­di­ately. Among them:

Drain the holy wa­ter

● fonts

Sus­pend the ex­change ● of the sign of peace, which in­volves clasp­ing hands

Sus­pend the dis­tri­bu­tion

● of the Pre­cious Blood dur­ing Holy Com­mu­nion.

In other words, no more sip­ping from the com­mu­nal chal­ice. The list was is­sued by Arch­bishop Joseph Nau­mann.

At a Protes­tant church, shak­ing hands in peace is also out. They’re flash­ing the 1960s peace sign or touch­ing el­bows.

At an­other, the Eucharis­tic wine (ac­tu­ally grape juice) and bread — once hand-bro­ken into bite­sized chunks — is set in in­di­vid­u­ally wrapped peel­away plas­tic con­tain­ers. Greeters are wear­ing gloves. Hand san­i­tizer is be­ing bought in vol­ume.

“We com­mu­ni­cated with our con­gre­ga­tion on Fri­day and ba­si­cally asked them, please don’t come if you’re sick,” said Cathy Bien, se­nior direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the United Methodist Church of the Res­ur­rec­tion, which ex­pects to soon find more parish­ioners live-steam­ing their ser­vices from home. The church, the largest Methodist church in the United States, has sev­eral lo­ca­tions around the metro.

“Our greeters are no longer shak­ing hands,” Bien said, “which is hard. But they are open­ing doors.”

More than that: Com­mu­nion is be­ing sus­pended through Easter. Ush­ers will no longer be pass­ing of­fer­ing plates, but en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to give elec­tron­i­cally or to drop do­na­tions in a bas­ket. Ush­ers will be wear­ing gloves.

“We would pre­fer that no guest has to touch a door,” ush­ers were told in an email.

Mayor Quin­ton Lu­cas’ an­nounced Thurs­day morn­ing that he had is­sued a 21-day emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion, can­cel­ing all events with more than 1,000 at­ten­dees. It would ap­ply to re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions with gath­er­ings of more than 1,000 peo­ple, but they could still meet with fewer at­ten­dees.

Through­out the Kansas City area, hun­dreds of churches, syn­a­gogues and mosques are now fig­ur­ing out ex­actly how to al­ter their rit­u­als of faith in the face of what the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion on Wed­nes­day of­fi­cially de­clared to be a grow­ing and world­wide coro­novirus or COVID-19 pan­demic.

Or whether to al­ter them at all.

Ab­duwa­hab Ibrahim, a mem­ber of the board of the Masjidu Nuur Is­lamic Cen­ter, which con­tains a mosque in Kansas City, said on Wed­nes­day they cur­rently have no plan to al­ter their com­mu­nal prac­tices.

“You’re go­ing to die one day any­how, right?” Ibrahim said. “If Al­lah plans for you to die from the coro­n­avirus, you’re go­ing to die from the coro­n­avirus. That’s God’s plan even be­fore you were born.”

Mus­lims pray five times a day, lin­ing along­side one an­other in rows. Wash­ing hands is al­ready part of the nor­mal prac­tice be­fore prayer, Ibrahim said. Touch­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­nity in greet­ing or friend­ship is also com­mon, but un­likely to be less­ened, he said. They have no plan to in­crease the use of hand san­i­tizer.

“We greet each other, we shake hands, we hug each other. That’s nor­mal for us, ev­ery­day,” Ibrahim said. “We still do that. That is just our routine. When the brothers get to­gether, we shake hands.”

Fri­days, he said, are of­ten high-vol­ume times as some 200 men and women en­gage in sep­a­rate prayer. “It is packed,” he said.

But the mosque lead­er­ship at this time plans to make no fun­da­men­tal changes in light of the spread of the con­ta­gion.

“We can’t avoid each

other. We just de­pend on God,” he said. “If it is go­ing to af­fect you, you can’t stop it no mat­ter where you go.”

At St. Fran­cis Xavier Catholic Church, 101 E. 52 nd St ., new corona virus pre­cau­tion cards have been placed in ev­ery pew of­fer­ing a prayer:

“Je­sus Christ, you trav­eled through towns and vil­lages ‘cur­ing ev­ery dis­ease and ill­ness.’ At your com­mand, the sick were made well.

“Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coro­n­avirus, that we may ex­pe­ri­ence your heal­ing love. Heal those who are sick with the virus . . . . Heal us from our fear . . . . Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim in­vul­ner­a­bil­ity to a dis­ease that knows no bor­ders.”

The card spells out the parish’s own pro­to­cols to reduce con­tact, such as no longer shak­ing hands when shar­ing the sign of peace. The card also spells out:

Re­frain from hold­ing

● hands dur­ing the Our Fa­ther.

Bow or nod dur­ing the ●

Sign of Peace.

Dis­trib­ute Com­mu­nion ● only in the hand, not on the tongue.

Re­mem­ber: Je­sus is

● fully present in both species — the Body and Blood. It is not nec­es­sary to re­ceive from the cup. Please do NOT re­ceive from the cup if you are ill.

As of early Thurs­day morn­ing, the Catholic Dio­cese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, of which St. Fran­cis Xavier is part, was still of­fer­ing con­gre­gants the op­tion of whether to sip from the com­mu­nal chal­ice, the rim of which is wiped with a white cloth be­tween sips by in­di­vid­ual church­go­ers.

On Wed­nes­day, the staff of St. Fran­cis de­cided that de­spite the dec­la­ra­tion on their pew cards, they are stop­ping the prac­tice of sip­ping from the chal­ice for now.

“At our staff meet­ing to­day, we de­cided to sus­pend the com­mon chal­ice be­cause peo­ple of­ten don’t know that they’re in­fected, not just with the coro­n­avirus, but with any virus” Sue Robb, the parish’s pas­toral as­so­ciate for jus­tice and life, said in an email to The Star. “Since we’re an older pop­u­la­tion and since it has been clas­si­fied as a pan­demic by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion to­day, we are erring on the side of cau­tion. We are also tak­ing the wa­ter out of the holy wa­ter fonts. We may use sand, we may keep them dry. Haven’t de­cided.”

On the Kansas side of the met­ro­pol­i­tan area, the list sent out Wed­nes­day by the Arch­dio­cese of Kansas City in Kansas was ex­ten­sive.

Among its other di­rec­tives: clergy to avoid shak­ing hands be­fore or af­ter mass; re­in­forced hand sanitation for those dis­tribut­ing com­mu­nion; no touch­ing those in the com­mu­nion line who do not re­ceive; no hand-hold­ing dur­ing the Lord’s Prayer; greeters to avoid hand­shakes; avoid all phys­i­cal con­tact; reg­u­lar sanitation of pews, hym­nals, ves­sels, door han­dles and re­strooms; hand san­i­tizer at all en­trances; no of­fer­tory gift pro­ces­sion; col­lec­tions that limit the num­ber of hands touch­ing the col­lec­tion bas­ket; ask the faith­ful to not at­tend Mass if they feel sick.

At the New Re­form Tem­ple of Kansas City, 7100 Main St., Se­nior Rabbi Alan Londy was ab­so­lute. “We are tak­ing this very se­ri­ously,” he said.

“We’re very con­cerned about it. The lead­ers and I are in con­stant dis­cus­sion.”

They are tak­ing the pre­cau­tions. At the syn­a­gogue on Fri­day nights, prior to re­ceiv­ing a prayer book, all con­gre­gants must san­i­tize their hands. Gloves are be­ing worn by those han­dling food. They are rec­om­mend­ing no hand­shak­ing, hug­ging or kiss­ing in greet­ing.

“We’re not do­ing it. I’m not do­ing it,” Londy said, adding that the pre­cau­tions are for all. “I’m not go­ing to put the con­gre­ga­tion at risk. I’m not go­ing to put my­self at risk.”

Con­gre­ga­tional lead­ers are al­ready dis­cussing the fu­ture, how to de­liver care if or when mem­bers be­come ill or self-quar­an­tine. The topic of livesteam­ing ser­vices has al­ready been raised.

“If we have to do some­thing more ex­treme, we will do it,” Londy said. “If the govern­ment tells us not to meet, we will not meet. But we are not go­ing to take any risks.”

He is con­cerned that the United States may al­ready be a bit be­hind in how it is pre­par­ing for the pos­si­bil­ity of a more wide­spread out­break.

“God only knows what it will be like in a week,” he said.


GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT IT WILL BE LIKE IN A WEEK. Rabbi Alan Londy, the New Re­form Tem­ple of Kansas City

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