Passing The Peace, Passing the Purell

One of the great joys of being on sabbatical is the opportunity to worship without any responsibilities beyond participating faithfully in the service. I love it. I am grateful. I am particularly grateful for the open table that welcomes me to take Communion.

We pass the peace before Holy Communion as a sign of reconcilation and it’s a beautiful practice. However, seeing that the woman one pew in front of me yesterday was coughing, sniffling and sneezing, I beelined across the sanctuary during the Peace so that I wouldn’t have to shake her hand. That might not be the height of Christian love but I was not willing to reconcile myself to spending the next week feeling miserable in bed.

I am a bit of a germaphobe and am never, ever without sanitizing hand wipes. I was therefore able to give my hands a decent cleansing after the passing of the peace when I looked up to the chancel and realized that I wasn’t sure if the priest had sanitized his hands before consecrating the Host. When the elements were distributed, I surreptitiously pocketed the body of Christ but gladly drank my little shot glass of wine. I crumbled the bread outside from the birds. Very St. Francis, but jumpin’ germy Jesus, I wasn’t about to put that in my mouth just in case the priest’s hands weren’t sanitized.

So, in the spirit of my panic, let’s please make sure that we’re not going straight from pressing the flesh of dozens of members of the congregation to distributing the bread/wafers/oyster crackers. Are you all tucking some sanitizer away on the altar these days? Maybe you have always done this. Please do tell.

I have been in fairly perfect health this entire winter. I started my sabbatical in November with a terrible cough (I have a life-long talent for persistent bronchial inflammation) but once that cleared up, nary a sniffle. Ministry is not an immunity-enhancing lifestyle. Dearly beloveds, please be very attentive to your well-being. Get your rest. Drink lots of water. Take a hot shower with a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil after making hospital visits. Stay warm. Lent is a spiritually and programmatically demanding season. Take care of you.

2 Replies to “Passing The Peace, Passing the Purell”

  1. Yes, I have Purell in the pulpit. And, depending on the Sunday, I am more or less conspicuous in my use of it. (Like the Christmas Even when I had a sinus cold… anyone watching me get ready to preside at the table knew that I had Purell’d the heck out of my hands!)

    My first career was in the health field (Physical Therapist) so hand hygiene is ingrained in me. One of our Elders is a retired nurse, and the first time we went out together to make Home Communion visits, we laughed when we realized that we each had a mini-Purell in our purses, in addition to the big pump bottle of the stuff I keep in my car!

  2. We also have lots of Purell around the church where I’m a member. In addition, during the Peace, our rector gave us several options, including gently bumping elbows. It’s become a playful greeting at a tense time.

    Personally, I’ve found elbow bumping to be a great benefit. I consider myself a loving person, but sometimes the peace hugs were getting to be a bit much. There were hugs that lasted a bit too long and felt forced. There were also hugs from those above me in the power structure, including clergy, that felt difficult to refuse. The elbow bump gives me a grace margin to greet everyone in the same way while I sort out how I feel – and avoid passing anything except the peace.

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