Reverend Eileen Harrop has taken inspiration from her Chinese heritage with the unusual approach to maintaining social distancing.
A Church of England vicar is using chopsticks to give bread to parishioners during Holy Communion while adhering to coronavirus safety protocols.
Reverend Eileen Harrop has taken inspiration from her Chinese cultural heritage with the unusual approach to maintaining social distancing as churches reopen for public worship.
The Church of England’s advice for Holy Communion during the coronavirus pandemic states that communicants should be offered only bread, not wine, as there should be no “common cup”.
Rev Harrop, vicar of St Mary’s in Gainford and St Andrew’s in Winston, both County Durham, believes the best way to administer the bread at the Eucharist is with extra-long serving chopsticks.
She 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?'”
Rev Harrop, who grew up in Singapore, has an enduring love of Asian cuisine and has been using chopsticks to carry out the sacred act at both churches she serves.
She explained that administering the communion using the utensils ensures there is no cross-contamination, and that her parishioners feel 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’,” she continued.
“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.”
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Rev Harrop went to study at 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, and she was ordained in 2012.