Church Concerns over H1N1

Fresno, CA The H1N1 scare has taken people out of their comfort zone. During church services, many people are now being asked not to greet each other with a handshake. The changes will be impossible to miss for many Valley Catholics.

At St. John's Cathedral in downtown Fresno, bowls normally full of holy water are either empty or covered with a sign saying "No holy water during the H1N1 flu season."

Mary Easton of Clovis said, "I think it's a good idea. I'm all for it. I think many people do not have good hand washing techniques nor cover their face when they cough."

To prevent the spread of the virus, Bishop John Steinbock of the Fresno Diocese asks local parishioners not to shake hands during services if they have the sniffles. But traditions are difficult to drop. Fresno joins the Sacramento Catholic Diocese in issuing guidelines to help protect the health of church members.

This week reverend Michael Kiernan of the Sacramento Diocese told parishioners, "We will not be receiving from the cup the blood of Christ and people are encouraged to receive communion from the hand and not the tongue."

Monica Chavez of Fresno understands the need to be cautious but feels communion wine from a chalice should still be shared. Chavez explained, "I know the priests and the clergy are being obedient to the county requesting that we not do this but in my personal opinion it should not be taken away."

The H1N1 scare is affecting other churches and temples as well. Pastor Al Schoonover of Fresno's Hope Lutheran Church said, "We've modified our worship service a little bit so when we greet folks we're not actually touching and shaking hands. We're nodding heads. We're speaking verbally."

And hand sanitizers can be found in more and more places of worship around the Valley.

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