One of the greatest challenges we have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been maintaining relationships, community, and fellowship. We have endured lockdowns, isolation, and social distancing duties to keep our neighbors, loved ones, and selves healthy and safe. However, these efforts to keep us physically healthy have made it challenging to stay spiritually and emotionally secure.
Community is often an enormous relief in times of uncertainty and stress. Unfortunately, large gatherings have been discouraged, and churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship have been particularly affected by these restrictions. While some communities have migrated to web-streaming their services, many believers don’t feel the same connection through a screen. Proponents of in-person worship services argue that the ability to congregate with fellow believers safely is a significant source of strength, community, and hope. This desire has inspired many religious leaders like you to find ways to reopen your facility safely. Thankfully, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released guidelines to limit the risk of mass gatherings and facilitate the reopening of places of worship.
Considerations for Communities of Faith
The CDC presents general factors to help communities of faith discern how best to practice their beliefs while keeping staff and congregations safe. We should note that the U.S. federal government provides these CDC guidelines, and as such may not impose standards for interaction in houses of worship or otherwise infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With that disclaimer in mind, here five credible recommendations that faith leaders can consider when reopening their house of worship:
Gradually scale up operations
Consider limiting facility availability until proper procedures are in place, and staff members are adequately trained. This is a situation in which preparedness and planning are of the utmost importance for overall efficacy.
Communicate plans and procedures effectively
Worship leaders should establish proper procedures and expectations for staff and congregants to follow when interacting with others. Promote healthy hygiene practices such as hand washing and social distancing and emphasize the importance of cooperation. Consider how to disseminate this information via highly visible signs, emails, instructional videos, etc. Many public facilities have implemented digital signage as a tool to communicate information effectively and efficiently.
Monitor staff and congregants for symptoms
There are many non-intrusive technologies to help identify potential COVID symptoms and inform individuals at risk for infection. Temperature monitoring is one of the leading solutions that organizations are implementing. Temperature screening products such as the Bioscan Temperature Kiosk offer instant feedback and customizable alerts if fever symptoms are detected.
Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff and guests
Offer masks, gloves, hand-sanitizer, and other PPE essentials as available. Consider finding a trusted partner like BLM Technologies who can provide PPE fulfillment services to ensure adequate supply.
Intensify cleaning and disinfecting practices
Regularly wipe down surfaces and publicly shared resources. Consider the benefits of UV-Clean technology, which produces a UV-C non-visible light to inactivate microorganisms at the cellular level, resulting in 99.9% eradication of all bacteria, viruses and molds.
Gathering together for worship is valued in many faith traditions and a big part of being a community of faith. However, we must diligently protect ourselves, neighbors, and loved ones as we endeavor to decrease the spread of COVID-19. With faithful leaders pursuing solutions to nurture fellowship safely, we will soon be able to come back together and celebrate the community.