S'porean woman priest in UK wins approval using 46cm lo hei chopsticks to give Holy Communion

Safe distancing.

Belmont Lay | August 16, 2020, 11:24 AM

Reverend Eileen Harrop, a Singaporean woman priest, has won approval in the UK and beyond after she was photographed giving Holy Communion to her congregants with a pair of long lo hei chopsticks.

The Singapore-born Harrop has appeared in UK media Sky News and BBC, and lauded for bringing her heritage to the church during this Covid-19 pandemic.

She was, in fact, just trying to work within the constraints of safe distancing by putting a distance of 1m to 2m between her and the congregant.

The 46cm lo hei chopsticks served the purpose, as tongs are only 15cm, CNA reported.

Lo hei chopsticks are longer as they are used by people to toss raw fish salad ingredients to celebrate Chinese New Year as a group.

Harrop told BBC: "I thought, 'Why can't I use a long pair of chopsticks and drop real bread rather than wafers into the communicants' hands?'"

"Administering the Communion in this way ensures that there is no cross-contamination and my parishioners feel reassured and confident to take part," she added.

"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'."

How media interest came about

Harrop is currently in County Durham, described as a sleepy rural area.

She serves at St Mary’s in Gainford and St Andrew’s in Winston.

Media interest in Harrop was unexpected as the initial story about her chopstick use was meant to be a local story after the church opened for a school service, where the congregation prays for students entering secondary school.

This was after churches were allowed to resume in the UK.

A local reporter showed up to Harrop's service and covered it.

Harrop was going pilot chopstick use and that event ended up as a spread with a quarter-page photograph in the papers.

Still a Singaporean

Harrop, whose maiden name is Eileen Chew, was a teacher in Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) in Singapore.

The reverend is still a Singapore citizen.

She told CNA about her experience so far being put under the media spotlight: “I think if I could testify to what a Singaporean spirit can contribute, to ourselves as Singaporeans, and to anybody else who would be encouraged, I’m very pleased. I’m very glad to be able to do that.”

Harrop married her English educator husband, whom she met during her undergraduate years in the UK.

They lived in Singapore from 1989 to 1996.

The couple then moved to UK when he needed to finish his PhD at Bristol University.

After stints in the private sector, she finally dedicated to becoming a priest in 2010.

That year, she did a two-year Bachelor of Theology in Ministry at Cambridge University.

She was ordained as a priest in 2013.

She has since served several congregations.

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Top photos via StMarysandStAndrewsGainfordandWinston YouTube