Although many churches and places of worship have already closed their doors amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the 67th Police Precinct Clergy Council in Brooklyn, otherwise known as the GodSquad, in collaboration with New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS), has issued vital tips for church gatherings.
“Science and our creator-given reason demand that we employ every means available to protect ourselves and the vulnerable against the spread of COVID-19 and all public health hazards, least our houses of worship become points of transmission,” said Pastor Gil Monrose, the St. Croix and St. Thomas-raised chair of the GodSquad.
“Health officials are advising that the elderly and those with chronic lung disease, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or a weakened immune system should avoid unnecessary events and gatherings,” he noted. “Additionally, those who feel ill or sick should not attend worship/gatherings to avoid exposing people to their illness.
“Post signs at all entrances and communicate that people feeling ill should not attend worship/gatherings,” Pastor Monrose added. “When possible, they may participate by internet or livestream – develop the capability if it doesn’t exist and post URLs.”
He said all houses of worship should provide hand sanitizing stations in their entry or sanctuary and that Christians should suspend the use of holy water stations.
Pastor Monrose also urged that religious leaders and the faithful refrain from hand shaking, touching, embracing or “reverencing the hands/rings of clergy or ritual objects.
“Liturgical greetings should be replaced by a reverent bow,” he said. “Congregant families may sit together, but distancing of 4-6 feet between worshippers should be considered in an enclosed space.
“Consider removing shared books and encourage congregants to bring their own, or replicate all songs and prayers into photocopied bulletins that can be discarded after one use,” Pastor Monrose advised.
“Christian congregations who take holy communion from a common cup (Chalice) should refrain from self-intinction (dipping),” he added. “Consider distributing a dipped host/bread into their palm.”
After every liturgy, Pastor Monrose said all surfaces and ritual objects should be disinfected carefully.
He said post-liturgy greeting lines should be moved outside or suspended.
“If your congregation has not done so already, consider equipping your worship space with livestream or webcam capability to allow the ill, elderly or vulnerable to participate – which will prove useful in case of future quarantine,” Pastor Monrose said.
He said pastoral visits, too, can be conducted virtually via laptops, desktops and cell phone, or at a congregants’ home by asking him or her to “come outside and take a walk, weather permitting, for private conversations.”