Area churches take precautions to avoid the spread of flu -, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Area churches take precautions to avoid the spread of flu

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Five deaths from the flu are being reported in Gregg county, and now steps to stop the spread are extending to churches.

Some churches are changing the way they do communion to help keep members from getting sick.

Traditional and sacred to some Christians is the breaking of bread and communal wine, but precautions have to be taken for some.

"Certainly the flu is an issue at this time of year. Colds and sickness in general are normal, when you're dealing with crowds of people. We've actually just reached a point that the bishop just sent out a directive to refrain from distributing the chalice for the next several weeks," says father Gavin Vaverek of Saint Mary's Catholic Church.

For some churches, past flu seasons forced them to change how they've presented communion.

"About 8 years ago when H1N1 came out, for the most part we began using a hand sanitizer. Kind of goes back to an ancient practice of a cleansing of the hands. We use the individual wafers and then we use the individual cups," says First United Methodist church pastor Roy James.

Some denominations use individual cups of wine, while others use a communal cup. And still others use a whole loaf of bread which is then broken with pieces taken by the congregation. In these two situations, the same thing can be touched by numerous people.

And through touching, they do pass on germs, but alternatives are in place. 

"We serve little plastic cups with grape juice in it, and then the bread is sectioned off so that when the plate is passed, it's already broken," says Cumberland Presbyterian elder member June Bonds.

Many churches say if a church member is sick, they do not have to take communion.

"Reception from the chalice is always voluntary, it's always optional," Vaverek says.

An option to keep the flu away from their faith.      

Some denominations tell us they will still offer the traditional communion for those who prefer it.

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