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Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for faith communities

Shortly after news of the first person-to-person transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S. circulated, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky sent a letter to local churches and ministries across the Greater Northwest Area encouraging them to take reasonable precautions.

On March 24, in a pastoral letter Bishop Stanovsky directed local churches of any size and other ministries in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to suspend in-person worship and other gatherings through April 30.

This resource page is designed to support leaders as they make critical decisions in a situation that is quickly changing. We believe it essential that such decisions are made with the latest, fact-based information available to us.

Because our area includes such a broad geography, we are including links to regional resources, broken down by state. Leaders are encouraged to closely follow the guidance of public health agencies in the communities where they live and do ministry.

Key Resources

Good, fact-based information is essential in a moving situation like this. We recommend the following national/international sources in addition to the regional resources linked below.

Making decisions as faith communities

The following resources are being offered to assist faith communities in developing plans and procedures to adapt to this changing situation. Please check back as we add to and update the items on this list. If you have a resource to recommend, email them to: communications@greaternw.org

Interim Guidance for Faith-Based Organizations on preparing for the Coronavirus from the CDC
This interim guidance is provided to help faith-based organizations, whose members may include vulnerable populations, plan for community transmission of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the U.S. The CDC encourages preparation for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in their local communities.

Connecting Neighbors
The Connecting Neighbors program from UMCOR is designed to provide holistic disaster preparation focusing on individuals, churches and the community. We are providing some of the most relevant insights from the program on this page to help local churches to care for their members during this difficult time.

Limitations on gatherings to minimize COVID-19: Info for community organizations and faith communities
This webpage was published on March 14 by King County Public Health to help communities of faith interpret and follow recommendations of public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community. While specific to King County, churches in Snohomish may benefit as that county has issued similar guidance.

Faith-Based and Community Organizations Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Checklist
This checklist provides guidance in developing and improving pandemic response and preparedness plans. We'll replace with a Coronavirus-specific checklist if produced.


Recommended Preventative Practices and FAQs for Faith-based and Community Leaders
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put together a list of preventative practices and resources for faith communities. Please note that this guidance should not be followed in the place of any state or county guidance that is more restrictive.

Cleaning and Disinfecting for COVID-19: Guidelines for Janitorial Staff
The King County Environmental Health Services Division has released these guidelines for safely cleaning and disinfecting to reduce germs including Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Adapting worship to new situations

In some localities, the recommendations of public health officials have caused a number of local churches to move their worship services online. We are gathering resources here to support churches as they plan for or adapt to this change. If you have a resource to recommend, email them to: communications@greaternw.org

Worship in the midst of an outbreak
After guidance from both King & Snohomish Counties recommended canceling or postponing large gatherings of more than 50 people, many churches are moving worship online. Rev. David Valera & Patrick Scriven point out some key questions to ask, offering a few tips along the way.

Greater Northwest Conferences offers steep Zoom discount, Alaska & PNW add CCLI streaming license upgrade for local churches
To assist in efforts to keep local churches connected during the Coronavirus outbreak, the three conferences of the Greater Northwest Area are offering Zoom to their local churches at a significant discount. Additionally, the Alaska & PNW Conferences are adding a CCLI streaming license upgrade for local churches.

Western Jurisdiction Bishops offer guidance for the Observance of Holy Communion
The Western Jurisdiction's College of Bishops has released guidance for the practice of online communion for clergy who has discerned "that their congregation would be strengthened in this hour through the sharing of Holy Communion." It is not something they are requiring local churches to do.

Electronic giving allows ministry to continue in 'isolating' times
Giving to your local church means giving to your local communities. Passing the offering plate in church on Sunday mornings is a reminder of Jesus’ commitment to ministering to all those around us.
GNW experts offer guidance and resources on setting up electronic giving.

Ideas for Church Financial Leaders Amid the COVID-19 Crisis
Numerous good resources are available for churches about how to prepare for the reality of the spreading COVID-19 virus. This list of ideas is specifically directed to financial leaders across the church to help with sustaining the church and its ministry (and perhaps growing it in areas) as we live through these Coronavirus days.

COVID-19 Lockdown: Creating Live-streamed Worship in 3 Days
Under less than ideal conditions, a number of pastors jumped into virtual forms of worship as concerns about the Coronavirus disrupted normal worship plans. Seattle First UMC pastor Jeremy Smith was among them. He shares some of the things he learned along the way.
The UM Publishing House Grants Temporary Permission for UM Book of Worship Content
The United Methodist Publishing House announced that it is granting permission to use and post online selected contents from the United Methodist Book of Worship as congregations care for their members during the international health crisis. NOTE - You still need to have other licensing in place for significant portions of this work.

Regional Resources for Information

Please use the following links to stay updated on how the Coronavirus is impacting the region you live in. We'll add direct links to impacted counties as the situation warrants.

Alaska

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Idaho

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
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