This document answers commonly asked questions from faith-based communities on the COVID-19 pandemic. Faith-based communities, an important source of comfort and structure during uncertain times, must now seek alternatives to the rituals traditionally practiced through close physical gatherings. Read below for information on the outbreak and suggested practices to engage faith-based community members while remaining safe.
What is social distancing and why does it matter?
Social distancing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), means maintaining physical distance from others to prevent the spread of infectious disease.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, this involves staying home as much as possible, avoiding large gatherings, and keeping at least 6 feet of distance from any person outside of your home.
This is an important way to limit your chance being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, as COVID-19 is shown to be spread through close person-to-person contact.
What is the best way to engage a congregation safely during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Practicing social distancing by connecting with your congregation virtually is the best way to protect your congregation right now.
These tips can help you stay connected virtually:
How can we safely maintain tithing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Try one of the virtual tithing platforms recommended by the United Methodist Church in their guide to COVID-19. When choosing a tithing platform, look for user-friendly apps that are accessible on computer and mobile devices.
For those unable to use online giving, you may want to direct them to send tithes to the treasurer’s home if this is an option, as long as they are able to do so safely.
How can we best inform seniors and/or other people who may have limited technology literacy on accessing these virtual services?
You may consider assigning younger members or any IT experts in your congregation to call or video chat seniors to walk them through viewing live-stream services, using social media, and giving tithes online.
How do we keep our faith community members safe and calm?
Create a disaster response task group to monitor COVID-19 updates and create a response plan. The Wheaton College Humanitarian Disasters Institute’s Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus contains an excellent guide to all the planning steps necessary to respond to coronavirus.
Share information from trusted public health sources, like the CDC and your state or local health department. The CDC COVID-19 site contains resources on identifying COVID-19 symptoms and following the right protective measures.
These emotional health tips from the Wheaton College Humanitarian Disasters Institute’s Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus guide can keep your faith community mentally healthy during COVID-19:
If congregational members are looking for additional emotional support, you may point them to the 24/7 Disasters Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990, or these other helpful tips from the CDC on coping during the pandemic.
The American Psychological Association maintains a list of mental health resources for COVID-19. Check out this site for tips such as practicing deep breathing and staying connected to a support system via phone or social media.
Who is at the highest risk in our community?
Those above 65 years of age and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk to severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC.
How can we help protect our highest risk community members?
To lower everyone’s risk of infection, you may consider sharing these with members:
You can also share these additional tips with congregants with specific medical needs:
How can we safely continue volunteer work in our community?
Your faith-based community may consider continuing community service activities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
These tips can help you do this important work safely:
Can I receive government assistance, or stimulus money, for my church?
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act offers financial assistance to individuals, families, and businesses to support financial recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Your house of worship may qualify for assistance.
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina breaks down the stimulus options available for houses of worship. These options include:
How can we find COVID-19 testing for our community?
Testing for COVID-19 is currently prioritized for those that are sick (or symptomatic), healthcare workers, and first responders. If community members believe they may be infected with COVID-19, you may encourage people to talk with their healthcare provider to determine their options to get tested. The CDC symptom checker can help people make an informed decision on seeking medical attention and testing.
You may also consult this guide to drive-through testing sites in your area. Always call ahead before going to a testing site to ensure they can serve you.
Why can’t I attend regular worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 is shown to be spread through close person-to-person contact, which means the best way to limit your chance being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others is to practice social distancing.
Social distancing means staying home as much as possible, avoiding large gatherings like worship services, and keeping at least 6 feet of distance from any person outside of your home.
Many houses of worship are streaming services virtually to maintain faith practices during this crisis. You may consider these tips to stay connected:
How can I help my church and community during this crisis?
Practicing social distancing and basic hygiene are the best way to keep yourself and your community safe right now:
Here are some other creative ways you may consider supporting your community:
I think I may be infected with COVID-19, what should I do?
What is the best way to continue receiving healthcare during the pandemic?
Going to the doctor – Before going to the doctor or your healthcare facility, call ahead to your healthcare provider to determine if they can support you virtually using a telehealth service.
Telehealth is a way to receive virtual care from a healthcare provider, through a phone call or video chat, for example. You can learn more about the range of services encompassed by telehealth here. During the pandemic, when physical distancing is an important way to protect yourself and your community, you may want to talk to a provider about your options to receive virtual care.
Find out more about using telehealth in our COVID-19 FAQ.
Prescriptions – If you use any prescription medications, you may consider getting an early prescription refill and using delivery or drive-through services to avoid going to the pharmacy often. Find out more on filling your prescription medications during the pandemic in our COVID-19 Pharmacy and Patient FAQ.
Emergencies – If you have a health emergency, call 9-1-1.
Resources made possible through support from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy