Flu leads to precautions at Maryland churches

After Father Kevin Farmer, of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Frederick, fell ill with the flu a couple of weeks ago, he began to pay close attention to warnings about prevention measures at the church.

“It was really, really bad,” he said of his illness.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the Archdiocese of Baltimore came out with a list of guidelines to protect churchgoers from transmitting the flu, which has become virulent this season.

This past week, priests stopped distributing the “Precious Blood” of Jesus at St. John’s and will suspend doing so for the next couple of weeks, Farmer said.

Priests handing out Holy Communion have also been instructed to use lots of hand sanitizer and take care not to touch the tongue or hand of congregants, Farmer said. A friendly exchange of peace, normally offered with a handshake, has also been suspended.

Fonts holding Holy Water have been drained at St. John’s, and caretakers are wiping down pews with sanitizing liquids, Farmer said.

The Rev. Eric Myers, of the Frederick Presbyterian Church, said he began to take measures about three weeks ago to allay congregants’ fears about the flu.

Myers said people typically receive communion at the church by either passing around bread in a cup or coming forward and dipping into a common cup.

To avoid further transmission of flu, congregants are instead being given small, individualized communion cups, Myers said.

Pastor Bob Frye, executive administrator of the International Community Church in Frederick, said he and his staff have been taking precautions to avoid spreading disease since winter started.

On an average Sunday, between 700 and 800 people can show up for service at ICC, Frye said.

Each time cleaning staff work in the building, they wipe door handles and railings with disinfectant, he said. Hand sanitizer is readily available.

The church also encourages people who are sick to stay at home until they return to health, Frye said.

“Most people are understanding,” he said. “We’ve been pretty blessed, only a couple people have been hit hard (with the flu) for the size of church we are.”

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