North Texas pastors are figuring out how to hold services without spreading the flu.
Priests across the diocese will be addressing the flu outbreak with parishioners this week, officials said on Wednesday, and will urge some changes to Mass.
“It was important we had as an immediate response as possible,” said Dr. Patricia Hughes, diocese of Dallas, Director of Office of Worship. “During the sign of peace, many people hug, they shake hands.”
The sign of peace is one change of ritual the diocese is urging churchgoers to make.
“For the sign of peace, to not insist on shaking hands with someone who doesn't want to do it or if you don't want to do it, just bow or make the sign of peace that doesn't necessarily involve touching one another,” a Holy Trinity priest said during a daytime Mass on Wednesday.
And for anyone who's feeling sick, officials said people should avoid drinking from the cup during Holy Communion.
“We're asking people to take it upon themselves to make it their personal responsibility not to receive if they even have a question about whether they have the flu or not,” Hughes said.
Churches like Holy Trinity in Dallas’ Oak Lawn are also providing hand sanitizer for parishioners and insist that Eucharistic ministers sanitize their hands before giving out Holy Communion.
Christina Diez goes to mass three to four times a week and is a nursing student at Baylor during this flu season.
“I carry around hand sanitizer, usually on my backpack, and I’m just kind of be careful who I'm shaking hands with or what I'm touching,” Diez said.
Jacklin Reese also carries around hand sanitizer to help fight off the flu.
“Part of the services is shaking hands, that's what Purell does for you. The rest you put it in the hands of God,” Reese said.
But if you do come down with a bout of sickness should you stay home from church?
“My hunch is God will certainly excuse then, especially if we're taking a chance on infecting other people in a very serious time of influenza,” Hughes said.
Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church Associate pastor Sarah Johnson also says when the congregation takes part in the 'passing of the peace' on Sunday, they'll be advised to do it differently.
“Cross your arms over your chest. Do a wave,” she said. “Do a fist bump — something other rather than an open handshake.”
The risk can be especially dangerous for the elderly, some of whom interact with the most people during Sunday services.
At Preston Hollow, a live stream is available for those feeling sick.
Preston hollow knows the flu impact first-hand. Their senior pastor is currently out with the flu.