Coronavirus: Wilton faithful see changes at church

WILTON — Even before a Wilton man was identified as the state’s first presumptive positive case of COVID-19, houses of worship in town were taking steps to lessen the chances of spreading illness.

At Wilton Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Shannon White said the protocol for Holy Communion changed on March 8. Instead of receiving Communion and grape juice from a chalice — which symbolizes the blood of Jesus Christ — the church distributed individual plastic packets that contained a wafer and juice.

In her homily, White addressed the fear an illness such as COVID-19 can cause and she assured congregants extra hand sanitizer stations have been installed and that proper cleaning practices are being followed.

“I want to encourage people not to have irrational fear but to be prudent and cautious,” she said.

Worship services will continue and although she perceived slightly fewer congregants on Sunday, she attributed some of that to the first day of Daylight Saving Time.

“It’s hard to know,” she said, adding “we did elbow bumps at the door.”

White said she will be checking in with her older congregants throughout the week and scheduled meetings will continue.

The Rev. Ann Coffman said there will be changes to Holy Communion at Wilton Congregational Church, which is distributed once a month. The next Sunday Communion will be offered is in early April, she said.

Under normal circumstances, parishioners take a piece of bread from a basket and dip it into a chalice of grape juice.

“We won’t do it that way,” she said on Monday, and the options are still under discussion.

Other possible changes are discussed on a day-by-day basis, she said, but another involves the sign of peace that takes place during a service.

“During worship we don’t shake hands,” she said. “We are bowing and saying ‘peace be with you.’”

On its website the church said it has ordered the disinfectant Durisan, demonstrated to be effective against viruses similar to the novel coronavirus. The church sexton wipes down light switches, door knobs, phones, tables and chairs in the classrooms. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the building.

Coffman said any change in church attendance is hard to quantify. Like White, she attributed a dropoff at the 9:30 service possibly to the time change, but the 11 a.m. service seemed to be the same as usual.

“So far our meeting schedule is the same, but we are seeing some changes in community groups using the building, some are canceling. We will pay attention to what the schools do.”

Words from the bishop

Sunday’s bulletin distributed at Our Lady of Fatima included a message from Bishop Frank Caggiano regarding coronavirus. He has asked pastors to suspend offering the chalice of wine to communicants.

As with other churches, he suggests instead of shaking hands at the sign of peace to use another gesture such as a nod or smile, and asks parishioners to refrain from holding hands during the prayer Our Father.

The church will also make sure that handrails, restrooms and tops of pews are properly disinfected and hand sanitizer is available at all church entrances.

Also giving only bread at communion is St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. In addition, the church is evaluating and expanding its cleaning and safety procedures. There are new bottles of hand sanitizer stationed throughout the building including in the narthex and in church school classrooms.