Share the Spirit, Not the Germs
Wisdom for Keeping the Church Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
As we gather together as a body of believers in church we share many things. Sharing insight and encouragement is good. Sharing coughs and sneezes is not good. We don't want to miss out on worship, fellowship and opportunities for growth by participating at church. But in our enthusiasm for God’s house, let’s be mindful of the common courtesy tips (listed below) during cold and flu season and reduce everyone’s health risks by minimizing the spread of germs.
We can offer alternative greetings when the obvious landmines of heartfelt handshakes and hugs surround us. Keep lots of kleenex and hand sanitizer available. Make sure Sunday school classes use wisdom in wiping down surfaces and encourage absenteeism when there is fever and sickness. Provide the healthiest way to share Communion by serving individually sealed "all in one" prefilled cups with wafers.
So, I must admit I found myself trapped one Sunday after I sneezed. I didn’t have time to leave the room to wash my hands before the Communion tray came down the aisle. I deliberately used my “clean” hand to take the tray but quickly realized I could not pick up my piece of bread with my previous “kleenex” hand. But neither could I have done it the other way around because receiving the bread tray with my exposed hand was just as risky to those that followed me. I gingerly passed it along and asked my neighbor to serve the bread to me so that I didn’t touch anything. At least I knew better when the cup tray was passed my way and avoided touching it altogether. (I smile because I do like being served by my hubby.)
As soon as I thought of the rest of the church members who might have been sneezing and coughing and fully unaware of their contributions, (Did you know that germs from a cough or sneeze can travel nearly three feet?) I panicked just a little. Now, really, I’m in very good company on this topic. Studies show that about 40 percent of Americans hesitate to extend a friendly handshake to avoid the possibility of catching germs. Flu is contagious about 24 hours before there are symptoms. Not everyone washes their hands after using the restroom (15% don’t) and we have no way of knowing who is included in that category. Remember, they touch the same doorknobs, handrails, tabletops and trays as we do. No wonder the fist bump has gained in popularity.
Our shared moments at the Lord’s Table are important, so this is good reason to consider changing to prefilled Communion. The unique hygienically sealed portions are opened by the recipient. No contamination. No spreading of germs. It will generate the goodwill of others who see that you care enough to safeguard their health.
Common courtesy tips to minimize the spread of germs
Practice Good Sneeze Etiquette
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Put your used tissue in the waste basket.
- Don’t have a tissue? Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
Promote Good Hand Hygiene
- Wash your hands often, especially after coughing and sneezing. Use soap with warm running water and rub hands vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Rinse and dry with disposable power towels. Use a towel to turn off faucets and open doorknobs.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based disinfectant hand rub.
Protect with Healthy Self Care
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, stay home and keep your distance from others to help protect them from getting sick too.
- Use alcohol-based disinfectant gels and wipes to help fight the spread of germs. Clean and wipe down shared surfaces such as countertops, keyboards, phones, handles and doorknobs, classroom toys.
- Get rest and drink liquids to stay hydrated.
And remember, even in that awkward moment when someone near you sneezes repeatedly, our answer should always be a loving "God bless you!"