A Singaporean female priest is being lauded online for using chopsticks to keep her parishioners safe as churches reopened in the United Kingdom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Church of England vicar Reverend Eileen Harrop was recently featured in the UK media after she was photographed using a pair of long lo hei chopsticks while giving out Holy Communion, according to Mothership.
“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,” Harrop, who is currently in County Durham in North East England and serving as the vicar of St. Mary’s in Gainford and St. Andrew’s in Winston, said, BBC reported.
Media attention came to Harrop unexpectedly. She used the utensils during a school service when the church reopened. Then, a local reporter showed up to her service and covered her use of chopsticks for the Holy Communion.
Harrop thought of a way to maintain social distancing and to make sure there is no cross-contamination when handing out Communion to her congregant.
“I thought ‘why can’t I use a long pair of chopsticks and drop real bread rather than wafers into the communicants’ hands?” she said. “Administering the Communion in this way ensures that there is no cross-contamination and my parishioners feel reassured and confident to take part.”
Harrop was only trying to practice social distancing when she came up with the idea to use the utensils. While others are using sugar tongs – 15 centimeters (5.9 inches) – the vicar thought that option wasn’t possible due to her height.
“I’m about five-foot tall, and my arms aren’t very long,” she told Channel News Asia. “If people come forward to receive Communion … they stretch out their arms, and it’s still not long enough for the 2m distance.”
The lo hei chopsticks, which are often used for festive occasions to toss raw fish salad ingredients, measure at 46 centimeters (18 inches) long.
“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 said. “They take on an even greater meaning used in this context.”
Harrop, who is still a Singaporean citizen, studied at Keele University in 1979 and met Brian, her husband of 35 years, Sky News reported. They lived in Singapore from 1989 to 1996 before they moved to the UK. Harrop was ordained in 2013.
Images via YouTube