Sanitizer, common sense aid Oklahoma churches in flu fight Read more

| September 28, 2009

From Buddhists to Baptists, Oklahoma City metro houses of worship are making efforts to prevent the spread of swine flu or H1N1, but religious leaders said most people are taking their own precautions.

For Quail Springs Baptist Church, that meant the placement this week of large dispensers of hand sanitizers at water fountains and other prominent locations inside the church at 14613 N May Ave.

Ray Griffin, the church’s education minister, said a short message about the importance of hand washing and staying home from church when ill will be included in the church announcement video on Sunday.

"Our plan is real simple, nothing fancy,” Griffin said.

Leaders at the Buddha Mind Monastery, 5916 S Anderson Road, sent out an e-mail about new classes that included an H1N1 advisory.

"Dear friends in dharma … in an effort to help people stay healthy and to prevent the possible spread of H1N1 … check for flu symptoms before you leave every day. Stay home if you have signs of fever, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, sore throat, chills, vomiting,” the e-mail advised.

And the Rev. George Back, dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, said a forum will be held between the church’s 9 and 11 a.m. services on Sunday, with Marilyn Robertson, St. Paul’s parish nurse, and Oklahoma Health Commissioner Terry Cline to speak about the H1N1 virus.

The Rev. Mark Muenchow, pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, said he sees congregants making their own adjustments to prevent the spread of the virus through practices such as Communion.

Muenchow said it’s the church’s normal practice to allow church members to choose between using a common cup, a chalice of wine that is used by more than one person, or a tiny individual cup of wine.

"It seems to me that more members than usual are choosing to use the individual cups,” he said.

Muenchow said he has also noticed that some people who have signs of illness don’t shake hands with others during the church’s "sharing of the peace” time during worship service.

Bob Miller, spokesman for Bethany First Church of the Nazarene, 6789 NW 39 Expressway, said some people had expressed concerns about the church’s "pass the peace” time.

"We have communicated from the pulpit that people are free to not shake hands during this time because of the viruses floating around,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Edward Weisenburger, pastor of Our Lady’s Cathedral, said Catholic churches were given directives concerning H1N1 earlier this year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He said churches will continue to use those guidelines as the seasonal flu season begins.

The bishops encouraged people administering Communion to practice good hygiene, to wash their hands before Mass and possibly use an alcohol-based sanitizer before and afterward. The bishops’ guidelines also stressed the importance of clergy telling people who feel ill not to drink from the common Communion cup.

Weisenburger said hand sanitizer is available at all the entrances of the cathedral, 3214 Lake Ave. He said the church provides an opportunity for flu shots for parishioners every year. He said the flu shots will be available Oct. 4 at the church, though he is not sure whether they will be able to offer H1N1 flu shots in the future.

Like Griffin, many leaders said they are keeping their discussions about H1N1 virus prevention fairly simple.

"I just remind everyone to use common sense actions such as covering your mouth and turning away from people to sneeze, and keeping your hands clean,” said the Rev. Mark Wallace, pastor of St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church, 6444 Northwest Expressway. "I think the only preparation I can make as a priest of a Eucharistic community is to encourage a family who has anyone in their home with the H1N1 flu to stay home. As their priest, I will take the healing Eucharist to them and anoint them with oil and pray for their sickness.”

I think the only preparation I can make as a priest of a Eucharistic community is to encourage a family who has anyone in their home with the H1N1 flu to stay home.”

the Rev. Mark Wallace
pastor of St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church We have communicated from the pulpit that people are free to not shake hands during this time because of the viruses floating around.”

Bob Miller
Bethany First Church of the Nazarene spokesman

 

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Category: Public Health

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