Faith-Based Response to Epidemics
An epidemic is a large-scale outbreak of an infectious disease, such as influenza or Ebola.
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 quarantine and disruption
- Show God’s compassion and care to those in our communities who are affected
It is not always possible to predict when an epidemic might emerge or what the specifics will be, but there are some common elements to preparedness and response that are helpful in a broad range of situations.
These are general guidelines; decisions should be made in collaboration with Church leadership and health authorities, based on local practices and safety concerns.
General Guidelines for Epidemic Preparedness and Response
- 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 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
Please consider these resources as helpful suggestions. Decisions should be based on local practices and safety concerns.
- Preparing for the Flu: A Communication Toolkit for Community and Faith-based Organizations
- Faith-Based & Community Organizations Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Checklist
- Healthcare Concerns and Liturgical Practices – courtesy of the Episcopal Diocese of New York
- Liturgical Practice and the Risk of Infection – courtesy of the Cathedral Church of St. James, Toronto
- Report Concerning the Common Cup and other Liturgical Acts – courtesy of the Diocese of Toronto, Anglican Church of Canada
|Prayer for People Critically Ill or Facing Great Uncertainty
God of the present moment,
Bring hope that you will make them the equal
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
-Adapted from New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 765
Important Points to Remember
- A person with the Ebola virus must show symptoms in order to spread the disease. People who are not showing signs of infection are not contagious.
- The Ebola virus does not spread through the air. Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of a person who is showing signs of Ebola infection.
- As with any infectious disease, such as influenza, if a person feels ill they should stay home and seek medical advice.
- The most important and helpful things a faith community can do are to educate themselves and others, reduce stigma and show compassion.
- Remind congregants not to come to church if they are sick
- Promote accurate information about Ebola and how it is spread
- If someone in your community is in quarantine, consider working with your local health department to support them (for example, providing food, phone calls to check in and provide emotional support, etc.)
- Pray for and support work being done in West Africa to contain and reduce the impact of the Ebola outbreak