Whether responding to a scraped knee or something more serious, churches need to be ready to respond to medical emergencies that may occur on church property.
This year is starting with an increasing concern around the coronavirus and how churches can be ready and prepared to respond. Episcopal Relief and Development has released a series of guidelines for faith-based response to epidemics. In it, we are reminded our role “as churches, dioceses and compassionate Christians is to:
- Combat fear with knowledge in order to encourage preparedness and decrease stigma.
- Maintain operational continuity and continue worship life in the case of potential quarantine and disruption.
- Show God’s compassion and care to those in our communities who are affected.
Also included in the guidelines is information about the virus, resources for church bulletins and bulletin boards, liturgical guidelines and resources, and tips for churches, a preparedness checklist and more.
In addition to these guidelines, the Diocese of North Carolina encourages every church to attend to individual details by reaching out to local health officials and law enforcement to seek guidance on local safety practices and resources.
Many of our churches are using the concern over the coronavirus as a reminder of ministry, taking note of neighbors around them who might need assistance to prepare or reduce risk. Others are making simple adaptations to services, including following widely shared recommendations such as:
- Remind congregants not to come to church or meetings if they feel ill
- Encourage clergy to wash hands with soap and water before services and use hand sanitizer before distributing communion; also provide hand sanitizer for congregational use
- If desired by the congregation, adapt rituals to minimize personal contact
- Communion: those who are ill should stay home; those who are concerned may abstain from communion or receive “in one kind” (host only); use of the common cup with proper purificator procedure presents relatively low risk; intinction should be avoided
- Sharing of the Peace: waving is perfectly acceptable in place of shaking hands or hugging
To maintain ministry to those encouraged to stay home as a precaution, some churches are reminding parishioners of remote viewing options, such as sharing services via Facebook Live or other livestreaming services. Others are utilizing video conferencing services such as Google Hangout or Zoom for meetings or to check in with those feeling ill while reducing the chance of spreading germs.
As with all health threats, the key is to prepare without panicking. Every precaution recommended for the coronavirus is good advice during every cold and flu season, and following these precautions every day is a great way to practice self-care as well as care for one another.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION RESOURCES: