TO SIP OR TO DIP, THAT IS THE QUESTION
As we used to pray in the service of Morning Prayer, “We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, we have offended against thy holy laws …” It may not be as bleak as all that, but we do need to address a matter that in recent years has led us astray: the practise of dipping (known as “intinction”).
With the outbreak of devastating diseases such as AIDS and SARS, it is understandable that Anglicans have raised questions about the potential health risks of sharing a common cup. Many have chosen, as an alternative, to receive the bread, hold on to it, and then dip it into the chalice when it is offered. This practise is now actively discouraged by the Anglican Church of Canada. And for good reason.
Nasty viruses like AIDS , for all their destructiveness, are relatively weak and are destroyed by exposure to air, soap and virtually any disinfectant (including alcohol). There is in fact a greater risk of infection, especially from common viruses like influenza, through the hands than through the lips. And intinction invariably means dipping not just the bread into the wine, but also the fingers!
For this reason, if individuals feel uncomfortable with the common cup, the better alternative is to receive only the bread and not the wine, tradition reassuring us that the presence of Christ is equally in one element as in the other.