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

Helpful Resources

Please consider these resources as helpful suggestions. Decisions should be based on local practices and safety concerns.

Prayer for People Critically Ill or Facing Great Uncertainty

God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to all
who wait or work in uncertainty.

Bring hope that you will make them the equal
of whatever lies ahead.

Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you.

-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.
What Should Churches Do?
  • 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
Helpful Resources