Reimagining Worship and Social Connection During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Resources and Insights from the Faith Community
Co-Authored by Dr. Nicolette Louissaint, Executive Director for Healthcare Ready and Marcus Coleman, Senior Associate of HWC Inc.
“Who are we? Who do we serve? and What are we about?
– Rev. Eugene Cho, President-Elect, Bread for the World
Though asked in the context of the Christian faith tradition, it’s a question asked by leaders across faiths as they continue to create spaces for fellowship, worship, and service for people and families grappling with impacts of COVID-19. Healthcare Ready joined more than 4000 faith leaders for the virtual #COVID19Church summit to share resources for individual and patients and insights from working on disaster response from within the healthcare and public health community.
What we learned from the Summit prompted a broader conversation within our organizations. We were motivated to highlight and elevate promising practices from faith communities around the world. Our team is working to support these great efforts by sharing the practical tools and insights gleaned from faith leaders preparing to celebrate holy days while remaining physically distant outside of synagogues, churches, mosques, gurdwaras and other facilities normally attended by congregants during religious observances.
Globally, UNICEF and Religions for Peace launched a Global Multi-Religious Faith-in-Action COVID-19 Initiative, the UN Environmental Programme uplifts resources from trusted sources around the world through their “Faith in the Frontline with COVID-19”. In the United States, the US Department Health and Human Service Center for Faith & Opportunity Initiatives has provided COVID-19: Recommended Preventative Practices and FAQs for Faith-based and Community Leaders.
Healthcare Ready and HWC Inc. continue to connect with and learn from faith-leaders across the country as they prepare for religious observances throughout the spring (including Passover, Easter, Ramadan, Vaisakhi (Vesak) and Ridván) and summer. We recognize leaders across faiths, and of no faith, continue to make hard decisions to live out their values and mission in accordance to the public health guidance from your local public health departments. We also recognize the difficulty that COVID-19 imposes on the practice of communal faith, and want to support efforts to protect worshippers and leaders seeking to safely practice their faith.
We empathize that for many Imams, Rabbis, Pastors, staff and volunteers, knowing where to start is a daunting and urgent task that requires adjustments and changes to all aspects of how you practice your faith and beliefs. And we laud those who are employing innovation to worship during a pandemic. Modeling what it means to be a good neighbor by hosting services in a manner consistent with public health guidance.
For those looking for a place to start or to improve your virtual outreach efforts, below are some tips we have learned along with examples of helpful resources and content to assist faith leaders and public health officials seeking to provide adaptable guidance across the faith traditions in their community.
Tip #1: Using conference calls, Facebook Live, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and other telephone and video conferencing technologies to hold services ensure congregant have options to stay connected while following public health guidance.
The Aspen Institute Inclusive America Project developed two helpful resources for people of all faiths.
- How to Celebrate Holy Days While Socially Distant – this series of short videos provide a Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspective on how each religious holiday will be observed in new ways.
- Resources for Maintaining Community During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Tip #2: Bringing back the “prayer chain” call can serve as a helpful to have people check in regularly by phone in between virtual services.
This tip comes from, Dr. Jamie Aten, Co-Founder of Wheaton College Humanitarian Disaster Institute and is found in the Sojourners article, Community without Communion Resources for a Virtual Church. In addition to this help tip, Wheaton Humanitarian Disaster Institute developed a suite of resources for the church including the useful guide Preparing Your Church for the Coronavirus. Dr. Aten also has insightful pieces for faith leaders and congregant alike on the Hope + Resilience blog.
Tip #3: Follow public health and cybersecurity best practices to be sure your house of worship is providing safe and secure methods for online giving (e.g. tithes) and donations in addition to mailing checks.
Religious offering like Tithes, Zakat, Tezdaka are all important religious norms and can be accommodated during this difficult time. One place to see how faith communities are adjusting religious norms across faiths is Corona Guidance: Religious Norms for Navigating the COVID-19 epidemic a databased developed by David Freidenreich of Colby College that provides ”religious responses to the pandemic that draw on traditional texts or values to offer practical guidance for daily life. It is organized by religious tradition and searchable by full-text and using pre-defined categories.” Mr. Freidenreich notes the database remains a work in progress — please share feedback and additional sources with him directly, his e-mail is (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For those looking for additional tips and information we invite you to check out the Faith and COVID-19: Resource Repository – This online platform from the Georgetown Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs collects and communicates information related to religious actors responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizing information so that it can be quickly found and used by development policymakers and practitioners and religious actors who seek to work together in the COVID-19 response.
For those seeking to serve the needs of individuals and patients we invite you to connect with Healthcare Ready and our efforts to strengthen healthcare supply chains through collaboration with public health and private sectors by addressing pressing issues before, during, and after disasters.