COVID-19: how can churches respond?

Churches are, of course, integral parts of their communities and are often on the front line of responding to disasters, both practically and pastorally. Experience from previous epidemics has shown that churches are particularly well-placed to build trust and hope, to counter fear,  and to build community resilience as well as individual mental and spiritual resilience.

In this section:

SPIRITUAL AND THEOLOGICAL RESOURCES:

PRACTICAL ACTION:

Your church can play a vital role in the current COVID-19 pandemic through….

SPIRITUAL AND THEOLOGICAL RESOURCES

Bible studies
COVID-19 is now affecting every part of the world, disrupting people’s lives and creating fear, anxiety, sorrow and hardship. Where can we find strength and hope at this troubling time? What might faith look like in a time of COVID-19? How might God be calling us to respond to the impacts of the pandemic?

To help Christians reflect on their faith and scriptures in the midst of the pandemic, the Anglican Alliance has produced a series of Bible studies called “Faith in the Time of COVID-19”. These are also available in Arabic, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

These studies, provoking thought, prayer and action, were written in consultation with a small group of biblical scholars, theologians and church leaders from across the world and the foreword is by the Archbishop of Canterbury. We encourage you use these Bible studies and promote them in your churches.

Anglican youth in Brazil have recently completed the first set of Bible studies in on-line study groups and have made this video to share their experiences of how they have been impacted.

Bible studies 6 to 8 have recently been added to the website. These are also now available in Spanish and Portuguese and French.

Prayer and reflection
The Mothers’ Union have written a beautiful prayer, which you can download from the resources section.

The COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting people’s lives in every part of the world. In our regional and global calls, the Anglican Alliance is increasingly hearing about the mental distress people are experiencing. “Calm our fears in this time of great distress” is a short reflection offered as a place of retreat… to provide a breathing space… the chance to spend a few moments immersed in the glory of God’s creation and in the love and peace of God. We hope this ‘visual retreat’ provides a small measure of solace and joy in these difficult times. You can download it as a video or Powerpoint in the resources section.

Please send us your prayers from around the Communion: anglicanalliance@anglicancommunion.org

Maintaining worshipping life when we can’t gather in person
Across the Anglican Communion, people are responding creatively to the suspension of traditional gatherings for worship.  Where possible, churches are using social media, recording and live streaming of services and sermons to maintain a pattern of ‘collective’ worship. The Anglican Communion News Service is also preparing a service for each Sunday, using fresh self-recorded videos and archived material from across the Communion, providing the opportunity to worship with our global Anglican family.

However, it is recognised that some church members, especially the elderly or those without digital access, may find it difficult to engage with this, either technologically or emotionally, so alternatives are also being sought. Ideas being tried in different places include using radio channels, people sharing in a service individually at a set time with a common prayer sheet delivered, ringing the church bell to call people to pray at home at the same time, and gathering in their own household to share in a service, a Bible study or to watch a live stream or recording together.

 

PRACTICAL ACTION

Supporting community preparedness for COVID-19
To help your community prepare for, and respond to, COVID-19, you need to get organised and plan what you can do.

You will probably already be taking steps to minimise the spread of the disease through physical distancing and hygiene measures and encouraging people to self-isolate and seek testing when they have symptoms (where available). But it is equally important to discern how you can be the hands of Jesus, reaching out to the most vulnerable at this time.

How do you get started? We have prepared a briefing sheet that sets out a series of steps to follow to help you get organised and plan your response to COVID19. The briefing draws on our experience of disaster preparedness, response and resilience. You can read the briefing here and download it from the resources section.

 

Supporting impoverished, vulnerable and marginalised groups
COVID-19 is impacting every part of the world and every section of society. However, it will have particularly catastrophic impacts on people who are already vulnerable and marginalised.

For several weeks, the Anglican Alliance has been convening regional and global online consultations to share learning and experience of COVID-19 across the Communion. This page – how churches can respond effectively to impoverished, vulnerable and marginalised groups in their communities – draws together key points of learning from the calls:

  • get the message out
  • enable hand washing
  • adapt existing programmes
  • use your assets
  • partner in wider initiatives
  • think about the economic impact of the pandemic, both short and long term.

The UNAIDS report “Rights in the Time of COVID-19 – lessons from HIV for an effective community-led response” has much helpful guidance for communities to ensure vulnerable people’s needs and rights are taken into account.See also the COVID-19 Outbreak Protection Brief from the Pacific Humanitarian Protection Cluster, which focuses on different at-risk groups.

Thinking about specific groups:

Examples of how churches across the Anglican Communion are taking action to support impoverished, vulnerable and marginalised people in their communities: We are hearing many moving stories of how churches across the Communion are responding to people in need in their communities. We have started collating them into this page of examples of responses across the Communion and will be adding more case studies in the coming days and weeks.

Examples so far come from Jordan, the Philippines, India, West Malaysia, the USA, Sri Lanka and Cyprus.

 

Supporting people in lockdown
Here you will find links to resources and websites that provide help for coping practically, spiritually and psychologically with isolation. Lockdown provides a time for individual and family prayer; those who are isolated at home can become a powerhouse of prayer. It is also possible that stress and family pressures (including domestic violence) might arise at this time.

The Mothers’ Union has a selection of resources to help people in self-isolation or lockdown.

Supporting children at home: UNICEF has tips for parenting during the COVID-19 outbreak and how teachers can talk to children about COVID-19

Caring for people with COVID-19: Our page of information on caring for people with COVID-19 includes guidance on how to care for people with COVID-19 at home and how to provide care for carers.

Maintaining good mental health and coping with stress: Our page on COVID-19 and mental health: looking after ourselves and others provides information and links on how to look after our own and others’ mental well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tackling domestic abuse: see our resource on domestic abuse and COVID-19: how churches can respond, written by Mandy Marshall, the Anglican Communion Office’s Director for Gender Justice. The document can also be downloaded in the resources section on the right. This resource is also available in French, Portuguese, Spanish and Kiswahili.

 

Church and community engagement
See Episcopal Relief & Development’s web pages on Faith-Based Response to Epidemics.

See the World Vision resource Guidance for Faith Communities, especially actions #4 (connecting and caring for your community) and #5 (provide psychosocial support to families and wider community).

Also, see Supporting Communities facing COVID-19  from Health Communication Resources,  which offers excellent advice for engaging effectively with your community during this period.

Tackling stigma and discrimination: see this case study from Asia on how the Church acted to turn stigmatisation into celebration: case study from Asia.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, UNICEF and WHO have jointly produced this helpful guide to preventing and addressing social stigma.
UNICEF has good resources on how to talk about COVID-19 so as to reduce discrimination and stigmatisation (bottom of page) and a youth-based resource.
WHO also has a set of posters about kindness, including one on stigma: here (bottom of page).

The UNAIDS report “Rights in the Time of COVID-19 – lessons from HIV for an effective community-led response” has helpful information in paragraphs 9 through 17 on equality, stigma and discrimination.

 

Supporting people through dying and bereavement

Talking about death and dying: our page on conversations you might want – or need – to have provides tips for helping to start the conversation and making it go well; ideas for some of the things you might want to think and talk about; and advice on talking to children about death and dying. It also has a going deeper section for professionals.

Palliative care: a page of information on providing end of life care. This has been written with people for whom this will be new particularly in mind.

When someone has died: a page of resources on handling the deceased with dignity and respect, safe funerals and alternative goodbyes (for when you can’t attend a funeral in person).

Bereavement and grief: our page on bereavement and grief has a selection of  resources to help families who have been bereaved and the leaders who minister to them and a section on lessons learned about grief from faith responses to other epidemics.

 

Reopening churches as safely as possible
As lockdowns begin to ease, churches are being allowed to reopen in some places. Our page on reopening churches as safely as possible provides links and information on both the thinking and biblical reflection that will need to take place before reopening a church and the practical ways to do so as safely as possible while recognising the ongoing risks.

 

Building a more connected, resilient and compassionate society for the future
Under development – please contribute your ideas: anglicanalliance@anglicancommunion.org

 

Other resource hubs on faith-based responses to COVID-19
JLI – Berkeley Centre: faith responses to COVID-19

Faith-based organisations’ resources collated by UN Environment: Faith in the Frontline with COVID-19.