Thursday, April 30, 2009

Germs at Holy Communion

With all the talk of swine flu and how to protect yourself, the UMC has offered up some advice of their own. There is a ton of talk also about how to control continuation during Holy Communion. I have known some germ-a-phobes who won't take communion because of the risk. It is nice to see that there is scientific proof that Communion is as risky as being around people. In a study done by Anne LeGrange Loving and written about in the bi-monthly Luther Partners magazine backs this claim.

During the simulated Eucharist services, samples were taken of participants' fingertips, the wine, the wafers before and after being dipped into the wine, and of the "dregs" of the wine that remained at the end. Bacterial cultures were performed on all of these samples.

The findings revealed that bacteria are indeed transferred into the wine when a person's fingertips are submerged, and these same microbes can then be absorbed onto the wafer of a subsequent participant, in a sponge-like fashion. Not surprisingly, some individuals in the study had small amounts of fecal and other potentially dangerous bacteria on their fingertips, and some of these were recovered from the chalice samplings.

However, the statistics in this study showed that although intinction is by no means completely microbe-free, it does seem to reduce the risk over that of sipping from a common communion cup.

Having completed this investigation, I realized that my findings could be added to the large pool of previous studies that all showed the same thing: Holy Communion is like any other activity in which humans have close contact — microbes are exchanged.
Being in contact with people will always produce germs but aren't those germs worth being in contact with the grace of God?

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