As world leaders work to combat the spread of COVID-19, many have asked what the response of the Church should be. My belief is that parishes as a whole and their healthy individual members are not made healthier by avoiding the Chalice of life and the Sacrament that is the Medicine of immortality. For this reason I strongly encourage our clergy and parishes to maintain public worship and the sacramental life of our parishes to the greatest extent possible. We ourselves as individuals, our churches, and our society are all harmed by the absence of the Holy Eucharist, and that harm must be taken into account when considering a way forward.
Those who are ill, those who know they have been exposed to an infectious disease, and those with compromised immune systems or who are otherwise in fragile health should remain home. All of us should obey curfews and lawful regulations issued by the civil authorities. Otherwise, as much as possible, we should carry on our normal lives, in and out of church.
For those who have concerns about receiving the Eucharist, one can look to long-established alternatives in the history of the Church—having the clergy intinct the Host for us, receiving communion under the species of bread alone, or receiving communion at home by means of presanctified hosts. For those who are unable, or find it inadvisable, to do the above, an act of spiritual communion is acceptable as well.
All of this is as always during ‘flu season. The current situation is not really different from other 'flu seasons or times of infectious disease, except that at present there is no vaccination available and no developed immunity in the populace. We have a duty to those around us, particularly to the elderly and those who are immunocompromised, to do what we can to slow the spread of this disease. I therefore encourage our clergy to work with local leaders and their parish vestries to find prudent, pastorally sensitive solutions to the challenges we face, keeping in mind that churches must address both the physical and spiritual needs of their parishioners.
The difficulties we face today remind us of the importance of prayer, a duty we are already called to enact in this season of Lent. I leave you, therefore, with both the assurance of my prayers and a recommendation for use in your own devotions, public or private:
O MOST mighty and merciful God, in this time of grievous sickness, we flee unto thee for succour. Deliver us, we beseech thee, from our peril; give strength and skill to all those who minister to the sick; prosper the means made use of for their cure; and grant that, perceiving how frail and uncertain our life is, we may apply our hearts unto that heavenly wisdom which leadeth to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
—1928 BCP, p. 45
(The Most Rev'd) Mark Haverland