Pastoral Care Bulletin
St. Peter Lutheran Church and School
Health, Safe Practices and Ministry in Response to Flu Outbreaks
St. Peter Lutheran Church and School is deeply and prayerfully concerned for those affected by
the global spread of the H1N1 (a.k.a. Swine Flu) virus. We are equally committed to taking
effective steps toward the prevention of further transmission of the virus.
The ministry of Jesus clearly healed and cared for the suffering and the diseased. His disciples
were called to do the same (e.g. Matthew 10:8). Indeed, we are called to be among the leaders of
efforts to heal, care for and actively engage in efforts to prevent human suffering. We’re grateful
to have a number of our St. Peter members engaged in vocations of human care. All of us,
however, have the opportunity to be a part of addressing the current and future health
concerns. Lutherans learn from an early age, “we should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or
harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need” (5th Commandment
Though fears assault us, the message of Easter is “be not afraid!” This is not to say that the
current situation is not frightening. However, it is precisely in ominous times that we are
reminded to be the beautiful feet who bring peace, a church who shows care, a people who are
engaged in service. For those of you who know our mission motto, it is precisely a time to say,
“Share the Caring Christ!”
The attention in the media to the issues of pandemic really provides us with an important time
to review our own health habits. Every year over 30,000 people in the United States die from the
flu virus with far less publicity. Ironically there are simple measures that could greatly reduce
your chance of being infected or carrying that infection to others.
1. Hand Washing
a. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Use soap and water, or if they're
unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wash especially after using the
restroom, before handling or consuming food, before touching your face, before
contact with someone with a weak immune system (e.g. children, elderly and
b. At St. Peter, we are already providing alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations near
all major entrances. Additional bottles will be available beginning this weekend.
c. Our Pastors and Elders have long practiced sanitizing their hands before
distributing communion. The Pastors also do the same before and after each
service. Beginning this week, we will expand the before and after service hand
sanitizing effort for all Elders and Greeters.
d. Frankly most of us with healthy immune symptoms are likely to recover from a flu
virus without hospitalization. We do, however, pose a great risk to those with
weakened immune systems. Godly care for our neighbor calls on all of us to wash
before and after contact with our neighbor who may be weak.
i. When you come to church, a hospital, your workplace or any public venue:
wash for the protection of others.
ii. When you leave, eat or have contact with your face, wash for your own
2. Public Assembly, Hand Shaking and Personal Contact
A number of concerns have been raised in churches about public assemblies, hand-shaking, etc. There
is a difficult balance here for us to consider. We live in a world getting smaller, but not necessarily
closer. Fear of a public health crisis could easily isolate people further—a time when ministry is
needed most. Our faith is clearly one expressed in community. It would be devastating for us to fear
assembling or even making contact with one another physically. Jesus, himself, reached out to those
whom others feared to make contact with. While touch is a vital part of forming community—
especially in an increasingly virtual world—there are also reasonable precautions that can allow us
to engage one another in community without exposing one another to risks of health. And during
times of flu alerts, we can make additional temporary changes to our practices. Keep in mind,
however, that healthy practices in all occasions really do care for our neighbor and honor God no
matter what the level of threat may be. We are recommending the following to balance this difficult
a. If You are Sick: Stay home for your own good and to do good by safe guarding
others. But let your church family know! Call the church office or send an e-mail.
We want you in a time of illness to Experience the Support of a Church. Don’t feel
it is too small of a matter to ask us for prayer, a phone call of encouragement or a
b. If Your Immune System is Weak and Flu Alerts are High: Stay home for your
own safety and as expressed above, call your church. Working with your own
medical care professionals and your own good judgment, this may be a brief time
in your life where it would be best to Experience the Support of a Church by a
personal visit from healthy members.
c. If You are Healthy: Be among those who assemble, who pray and who volunteer
to care for the needy. Practice healthy habits, especially in regard to hand washing.
If everyone washed before we entered the church to assemble and at other
appropriate times, we would be practicing a healthy community and be able to be
among those sent to be healing and caring for the needy.
d. Passing the Peace and Other Forms of Hand Shaking: There have been some
extreme examples of congregations doing away with all forms of touch. You may
be most comfortable during times of high alerts to avoid touch. It may not,
however, be necessary to go to this extreme if we practice items ‘a’ thru ‘c’ above.
We do recognize that each of us responds differently to touch and we respect that
some will be uncomfortable with such contact. We suggest that we adopt an
optional way of greeting one another with a spirit of genuine engagement and
Christian peace. So if you are uncomfortable shaking hands, try this: place your
hand on your heart (as if saying a pledge) and then rolling that hand over slightly
away from your body as a gesture. You may still speak those wonderful words,
“Peace be with you!” We believe that such a gesture would be recognizable to
friend and visitor alike as an expression of greeting and peace. If you choose to
shake hands, please respect those who are uncomfortable doing so and raise your
hand to your heart.
e. Reception of Holy Communion:
The Bread: We believe it best for all communicants to receive the bread in the
palm of their hand rather than the mouth. Simply hold your hand(s) out and allow
the Elder to place the bread in your palm. (With respect to the gluten-free bread,
simply take your own bread and place it in your mouth.)
The Cup: When it comes to the distribution of the wine, we offer both common
and individual cups. The pastor and elders take reasonable care to rotate and wipe
the surface of the common cup with a little wine. We cannot guarantee that this
makes the chalice germ free. If you have cold or flu symptoms, please use the
individual cups. Again, all of these methods are godly and simply a means of
receiving the Lord’s true gift.
This pastoral care bulletin is a compilation of recommendations based on conversations with
health care professionals, the web sites of the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov),
World Health Organization (www.who.org), Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org) and the
Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (www.lcms.org). We encourage you to read more on these
issues. We welcome your comments and suggestions. And we encourage you to practice good
health habits not only when attending church, but as you engage our society as a caring
Christian—acting to care for, heal and prevent human suffering.
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received,
freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
Pastor David P. Hudak