I live in Seattle, which has quickly become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. In the last week and a half, discussions of COVID-19 have gone from “well, it’s only really older folks that need to worry” and “I’ll still fly/shake hands/not wash” to the Governor recommending all public gatherings over 50 people be cancelled or postponed and the King County Public Health recommendations getting more and more serious. ***Updated 3/12/20: Governor Inslee has now banned all gatherings over 250 people and Public Health has released more stringent guidelines for faith communities. Link below.***
I am 28 years old. I’ve been alive and aware during global pandemics before, but have not been an adult in charge of making decisions for community health. Y’all, it’s stressful. Even though I am young and healthy and rarely get sick (knock on wood), I work closely with people who are elderly, who are immunocompromised, who are trying to get pregnant, who don’t have access to reliable and affordable healthcare. The decisions of “to close the church or not to close the church” have been agonizing, as have been decisions about traveling, about hosting visitors, about riding public transit, about doing hospital visits. This is a hard time that seems to just get more challenging with the spread of the virus across this country (not to mention the extreme measures China and Italy have had to take).
So, here are some resources that I’ve looked to for help thinking about how to respond to this outbreak in Seattle.
I will continue updating this with compiled information that has been helpful for myself and my church.
Prayers/Liturgical Resources at bottom of page.
Follow your local public health guidelines. For me, this is King County. We have an alert system that sends a text message to me when the number of cases is updated or we get more news about testing sites.
Right away when news outlets were breaking stories about COVID-19 in Seattle, I found this page from the Wisconsin Council of Churches very thorough and thoughtful on multiple levels. This is a great resource for considering how your community is responding.
After a meeting of about 50 faith leaders with a representative from Public Health on March 4, my friend Jeremy over at Hacking Christianity wrote this, and has kept it updated with new information coming in (over the past 7 days–whew!).
Here is a document specific to houses of worship, written with questions from that ^ public meeting in mind. Here is an updated version from 3/12, given after the Governor of Washington prohibited gatherings of 250+ (as in, they’re banned and you could be fined). I’m leaving the first link up because it might be helpful for locations where the situation has not gotten as serious.
Here is an article, again from Hacking Christianity, about creating livestreamed worship in 3 days.
My friend Eileen wrote this about guidelines for pastoral care in this time when in-person contact is being limited. Pastoral care needs won’t go away, and will probably increase, as people face increased isolation.
A clergy colleague recommended the Washington Warm Line, a peer support help line for folks who just need to connect with someone. The volunteers on this line have personal experiences with mental health diagnoses. This kind of line can be helpful in addition to pastor availability. Your community may even wish to set up a phone tree of sorts to check on people with limited mobility, mental health challenges, or folks in isolation to keep track of people’s wellness.
A lot of folks have also been looking to this GoogleDoc for information from a social epidemiologist and demographer. She is not updating it currently, though I think much of the info is still relevant and helpful in explaining the COVID-19 situation for laypeople.
Here’s a great document “Ways to Pray if you can’t get to Church.” Check these out an adapt as needed!
From my friend Mindi on Ministry in the Middle of a COVID-19 outbreak, for the Christian Citizen. And then she wrote MORE on things to think about for planning ministry in this time.
Here is an infographic on Zoom Basics and Best Practices.
OneLicense has made a gratis license available to ease copyright worries during COVID-19 virtual worship.
The State of New York has issued suggestions for cleaning for houses of worship.
And on a lighter note…
For signage options and encouraging people to wash their hands, visit https://washyourlyrics.com/ to make your own handwashing poster!
Or, use something like this to encourage folks to pray while they wash:
And here are some more prayers that may speak to you or your congregation in this time:
Sarah Bessey’s Breath Prayers for Anxious Times.