New Mexico’s faith-based organizations, working together with schools, businesses, healthcare systems, and state, local and tribal health departments, play an important role in slowing the spread of COVID-19, especially among high-risk populations.
With Passover and Holy Week approaching and Ramadan soon after that, the following questions and answers are intended to help faith leaders keep their communities together while abiding by the state’s public health orders:
Q: How can we hold a religious ceremony and still adhere to social distancing and crowd sizes?
A: Livestream your service and make sure members understand they should not attend in person. Viewers can send a comment via the online/livestream platform or an email or text to let you know they were watching. This also may involve permission or guidance about the use of electronic devices at times when that practice is usually not permitted, such as Jewish Sabbath.
Consider a “drive-in” service so people can participate separately, yet together. Attendees can drive up in their cars, park and watch the video service on their cellphones or on a giant screen while listening via a radio station.
- Email the bulletin and song lyrics ahead of time.
- Do not pass offering plates, communion or anything else from car to car.
Q: We don’t have Internet access in our church, so we can’t livestream. What should we do?
A: Both Facebook and YouTube have options that will allow you to pre-record, load, and schedule a video of your service to start at a certain time. This provides a similar feel of a livestream but does not require you to broadcast live with WiFi from your building. This article has tips on setting up your video.
Q: My congregation has a lot of members without computers or internet access. What can we do for them?
A: Mailed newsletters, pre-recorded messages from trusted leaders on a designated call-in telephone number, and printed copies of daily teaching guides will help you stay connected to those without internet access.
Q: We have text study, prayer groups and other small groups that are used to meeting regularly. How do we preserve those groups?
A: Livestream small group meetings. Encourage members to get together on a video call using services like Facebook Live, Google Hangouts, GoTo Meeting and Zoom.
Q: I am planning a funeral. How can I include as many people as possible while still adhering to social distancing and crowd size requirements?
A: Livestream the funeral so people can attend remotely. Immediate family may be there in person while others participate from home. Include live chat for those who may not have a webcam at home but still want to be involved. Use email and other digital means to distribute the funeral program, written eulogy, and family photos and videos.
Q: A member of our faith-based community has tested positive for COVID-19. What should we do now?
A: Coordinate with the Department of Health. If you learn of the positive test from the member of your faith-based community, immediately call the Health Department’s coronavirus hotline at 1-855-600-3453. You will receive guidance on what to do next, which may include tracing the contacts of that person. The Health Department may also recommend a short-term closure to allow time for the local health officials to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation.
- Consult with health officials on decisions regarding group activities.
- Close off areas used by the ill person. If possible, wait up to 24 hours before beginning cleaning and disinfection. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation.
- Clean and disinfect all areas (e.g., offices, bathrooms, and common areas) used by the ill person, focusing especially on frequently touched surfaces.
Q: How can we best serve members of our faith-based community who may be more impacted socially or economically?
A: Leverage existing ministries and activities. Pivot your church’s ongoing ministry efforts in new ways that address the needs created by COVID-19. Rather than starting from scratch, begin with what your church is already doing to serve others.
- Identify your church’s current ministries and activities that could be used to help address the impact of the COVID-19.
- Use existing communications methods and programs to instill hope in response to concerns about COVID-19.
- Care for people’s spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and safety needs.
- Consider ways your church helps bring calm and encouragement to stressful situations; comfort worries over COVID-19.
- Ensure the fair distribution of resources so vulnerable groups don’t fall through the cracks amid the current public health crisis.