On June 29, Dr. Fair spoke by phone to a group of Episcopal Church leaders. Following is an outline of his presentation.
- The faithful and non-faithful alike tend to flock to churches during epidemics and pandemics.
- Plagues are described in nearly all religious texts, including our own, indicating they have been with us since we first settled into groups. The Bible and other religious texts are some of our earliest public health manuals.
- The Church and religious services can either be a major contributor in the spread of infectious diseases or they serve a major role in ending the pandemic.
- While key to our faith, celebrating Holy Communion in large groups can and does contribute to the spread of disease, so it is during these times that we are compelled to adapt our rituals to serve the faithful, while not contributing to the problem.
- Epidemics and pandemics typically result from the mixing of humans, wildlife, and livestock kept or living in close proximity to one another.
- COVID-19 is believed to have arisen from a Wuhan “Wet” or animal market. It is presently believed to have originated in bats.
- The virus is most closely related to SARS from 2003, a virus that originated in China from a similar wet market but was quickly eradicated through aggressive public health response measures.
- The virus that causes COVID-19 disease is called SARS-CoV2.
- Thousands and potentially millions are thought to exist.
- One of two major causes of the common cold.
- This coronavirus is new to humans, but not new to the world.
- We react so strongly (to COVID-19 infection) because we are completely immunologically naïve to this virus.
- This is one of the more contagious viruses we have seen in modern history.
- It can and is transmitted asymptomatically which makes screening nearly impossible.
- It is spread via the respiratory system through expelling droplets by coughing or speaking.
- Infection occurs through contact with eyes, nose, or mouth.
Communion & COVID 19
- Any gathering of individuals in indoor spaces, no matter how well spaced, greatly increases the chances of spreading/catching the disease
- Whether inside or outside, require congregants wear masks and maintain at least 4-6 of distance. Make masks available for those who cannot buy them easily.
- Consider adding more masses and having sign ups in order to have fewer individuals in each ceremony.
- When possible, celebrate the mass outside. Doing so infinitely decreases the chances of spreading/catching the disease.
Ministering during a Pandemic
- Rather than a Church-based ministry, for some time your clergy may need to consider ministering to small groups in different locations. Keep the groups small and outside if possible. In some ways, this takes us back to the roots of Christian tradition.
- Use your ministries to distribute science-based information from reputable sources. As much as you can, work to dispel conspiracy theories and explain the importance of everyone contributing to the solution.
- Provide your clergy with the tools they need to protect themselves and prevent themselves from spreading the disease.
Dr. Fair also referenced the following article in his comments:
“Coronavirus: What the Church Can Learn from the Black Death Pandemic” Rockbridge Seminary.
Daryl Eldridge. April 3, 2020.