Anglicans worshiping across Barbados this morning are being urged to limit physical contact and alter their communion practices as fears of COVID-19 intensify across the region.A memo from the Diocesan Synod of Barbados discouraged members from hugging, kissing and shaking hands based on information provided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the Caribbean Public Health Agency.All persons experiencing flu-like or respiratory symptoms have been told to stay home until they recover and in the meantime, view church services online.According to Vicar General, Venerable Eric E Lynch, the final instruction came from Archbishop of the West Indies, Rev Dr Howard Gregory.
While at church, leaders have been asked to suspend the traditional “Sign of Peace” where warm greetings are shared among those in the congregation.“A nod, smile or bow will suffice. Shaking hands on entry or departure of religious services/gatherings should be suspended until further notice,” the letter stated.During Holy Communion, bread will now be placed in the hands of recipients instead of on their tongue. Wine will no longer be served to the congregation and only the officiating minister will drink from the chalice.The memo stressed that the duty of care ought to be extended to officials of the clergy. As a result, members exhibiting flu-like symptoms have been warned not to request pastoral visitation and instead seek such interventions via telephone or social media.“As soon as we have been advised that the threat of transmission of the virus has been minimised or eliminated, we shall resume our regular liturgical practices.Let us work together to mitigate the spread of the virus in our communities by practicing proper hygiene and encouraging those in our care to do the same,” the memo urged.At the St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Rector Mark Harewood read the notice to the amusement of some in the congregation.As worshippers lustily sang the hymn “Let there be peace on earth”, worshippers mostly stayed in their positions, while a few ignored the warnings and exchanged handshakes.The World Health Organisation’s latest situation report indicates four cases of the Coronavirus have been confirmed in the Caribbean- two in St. Martin, one in the Dominican Republic and one in St. Barthelemy.213 cases have been confirmed in the United States of America and another 51 in Canada according to the international public health body. (KS)