Vicar uses chopsticks in Holy Communion safety measure

The Rev Eileen Harrop uses extra-long chopsticks to give bread to communicants as part of her Covid-19 safety precautions.

A Church of England vicar has tapped in to her Chinese cultural heritage and is using chopsticks to give bread to parishioners during Holy Communion.

The Rev Eileen Harrop took an unusual approach to the challenge faced by clergy who are reopening churches for public worship while sticking to Covid-19 safety protocols.

The vicar of St Mary’s in Gainford and St Andrew’s in Winston, County Durham, decided that the best way to administer the bread at the Eucharist was to use extra-long serving chopsticks.

She has Chinese heritage, grew up in Singapore and has an enduring love of Asian cuisine, so felt confident in using the utensils for the sacred act and has now carried out services using them at both churches she serves.

Rev Harrop said: “Many of my parishioners were quite anxious at the thought of taking communion, even though we are only permitted to do so under strict guidelines to ensure that there is no chance of transmission of the virus.

“I thought ‘Why can’t I use a long pair of chopsticks, real bread rather than wafers, and drop it into the communicants’ hands?’

“Administering the communion in this way ensures that there is no cross-contamination and my parishioners feel reassured and confident to take part.

“It’s rather special that the long chopsticks I use are normally used for the festive occasion ‘Lo Hei’, meaning ‘stir the uplifted breath of life’.

“They take on an even greater meaning used in this context.

“This is a first for both churches, and perhaps a first in any parish church in the diocese.”

She came to Keele University in 1979 and met her husband of 35 years, Brian. The couple moved to Singapore before relocating to the UK again in 1996, after which she was ordained in 2012.

The current Church of England Covid-19 advice for Holy Communion states that communicants should be offered only bread, not wine as there should be no “common cup”.

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