We have seen churches in South Georgia who had already begun or were about to begin in-person worship but had to suspend or delay their plans because someone tested positive for the coronavirus - whether it was a staff member or a congregation member - or because there was a flare-up in the community. We acknowledge this may be the ebb and flow of the virus until there is a vaccine. We would like to encourage all of our churches to have plans in place.
Questions for your leadership team to consider
CDC Guidelines for monitoring and preparing can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/faith-based.html (There is a section entitled “Plan for when a staff member or congregant becomes sick.”
Article from Church Law & Tax: What if Someone in Church Has the Virus?
These clergy have done a great job in being transparent when they had a situation arise. We are appreciative they have allowed us to share their videos.
Ken Morgan- Springfield UMC: (Ken was exposed to COVID-19) https://www.facebook.com/110414721057/videos/575139523192865/ *Update: Ken and family showed no signs or symptoms during the 14 day quarantine and is working with his Dr. to arrange testing.
Jim Cowart - Harvest UMC: (Postponing service due to exposure) https://www.facebook.com/harvestchurch4u/videos/273397790602212
Jennifer Cowart - Harvest UMC: (Staff person tested positive) https://www.facebook.com/jimandjennifer.cowart/videos/1627897994039421
FAQs (credit: the Missouri Annual Conference)
What happens if someone in your congregation tests positive? What happens if you or someone on your staff has been exposed to someone who has tested positive?
The CDC or health department will instruct you about appropriate precautions if someone from your congregation has tested positive. There is a chance they may ask you or others to self-quarantine for at least 14 days. As a reminder, you generally need to be in close contact with a sick person to get infected. Close contact includes:
Living in the same household as a sick person with COVID-19,
Caring for a sick person with COVID-19,
Being within 6 feet of a sick person with COVID-19 for about 10 minutes, or
Being in direct contact with secretions from a sick person with COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed on, kissing, sharing utensils, etc.).
Please keep in mind that a diagnosis of any kind is personal health information that should only be released by the patient. If you are notified of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your congregation, how your church responds publicly will depend on how engaged the member has been in your congregation. The county health department should offer you help in determining if your congregation is at risk. A sample announcement for a member who has recently been on the property and engaged with multiple members of the church might be:
“We have recently learned a member of our church family has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. We are still working to notify members and staff that might have been in contact with the member and have requested everyone stay out of the building for at least the next 10 days. After a 7-day period, we will begin the process of cleaning and sanitizing the building. While we learn more and work closely with the health department to take every precaution necessary, please keep this member and their family in your prayers as they journey back to health.”
What happens if you (as clergy) test positive?
Your doctor or the health department will instruct you about appropriate actions if you have tested positive regarding isolating yourself and those who live in your household. If you are clergy, and develop symptoms that cause you to limit your workload or even cause hospitalization, contact your District Superintendent.
In the meantime, while you are healthy, consider asking the following questions:
What is your plan to care for someone in your family (e.g., a spouse, child, parent) who may develop full-blown symptoms related to COVID-19?
What is your plan for offering spiritual and organizational leadership for your church if you were to get sick? What is your chain of command– who steps in if the key decision maker becomes incapacitated? Perhaps you reach out to a church within the connection to see if they would be willing to serve as your congregation’s spiritual resource should you become ill (e.g., offering online streaming worship and pastoral care to your congregation in addition to their own, etc.)?
What are the essentials for your faith community? What must continue?