COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. — Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 has prompted at least one local church to minimize person-to-person contact during worship services.
St. Rita Catholic Church will suspend drinking from the chalice during Holy Communion, Deacon Jack Nicklay told attendees at Saturday evening Mass.
Nicklay also suggested that people who normally shake hands as a sign of peace to nod or gesture to each other instead.
St. Rita is following guidelines set forth by the The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on March 4, after a Ramsey County man became the first Minnesotan to test positive for COVID-19. The man, who is quarantined at his home, had traveled on a cruise ship before an outbreak affected dozens of passengers.
On its website, the archdiocese also said churches should consider emptying the holy water fonts and discourage worshipers from holding hands while reciting the Lord's Prayer.
Natalie Seim attended Sunday worship services at St. Luke Lutheran church, where Pastor Keith Long talked about the coronavirus.
"As if churches didn't have enough trouble in maintaining consistent attendance." Long said. "We already were scrambling as a community, but now large gatherings are a significant risk."
Instead of shaking hands, Long advised worshipers to put a hand over their heart and make eye contact.
He urged members not to succumb to fear or xenophobia, which he noted was already a plague in its own right. But he warned them to observe common sense.
If you're sick, he said, it's not a sin to stay home. Wash your hands and don't touch your face. Ask permission before hugging someone.
"Don't be that guy or gal that sneezes into the air," he said. "Try hard to build trust for your neighbors ... our lives are rooted in trust. That's what faith means."
The coronavirus has infected more than 100,000 worldwide.