Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Coronavirus Prevention - Your Quaker Community & FGC Events

Image credit: Pexels.com
Quaker News
By Holly Baldwin, Vanessa Julye, and Marta Rusek | 3/05/20

 

We are aware of the growing concerns Friends have when it comes to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and we want to offer resources for you and your monthly meeting or church to help you plan ahead should your local community be impacted. Taking steps to safeguard each other’s health is important for the spiritual well-being of the meeting community.

 

 

Prevention in your Quaker Community

At this time, it is our assumption that many FGC-affiliated meetings and churches are proceeding with worship. We know that as a decentralized religious body, your local meeting will decide how you wish to proceed based on the information available concerning your region and locality. When you meet for worship, FGC believes it is important to take steps to reduce the possible transmission of the disease.

One possible way to increase safety is to temporarily alter Quaker greetings in a way that will help stop the spread of a public health epidemic and while still communicating warmth and welcome. That means evolving our methods of greeting from handshakes and hugs to words and gestures of peace. While this may take some getting used to, it's worth remembering that for all for us—especially for Friends undergoing treatments that weakens their immune systems handshakes and hugs can lead to illness or worse. During this time, adapting your methods of greeting to promote safety can be considered an act of love.

Beyond how we break worship, we encourage Friends to take note of and follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus is transmitted by droplets from your body, so we should all take steps to drastically reduce transmission by adopting CDC-recommended safeguards, as well as guidelines created by the Public Health Agency of Canada. We have included a list of links to read at the end of this article.

We want to emphasize that if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and/or have a fever, PLEASE DO NOT COME TO MEETING. Avoiding Quaker gatherings and Meeting for Worship when you feel sick, like adapting the way you greet each other, is an act of love. It is the most effective way to help create a safe space for individuals who face an increased risk of developing the virus, including those with respiratory illnesses and compromised immune systems.

Prevention at FGC Events

Also, FGC itself has several committee meetings and events planned in March and April. At this time, we are changing in-person committee meetings into virtual gatherings between now and mid-May, and we will keep you updated on the status of events happening in April and beyond. We encourage Friends participating in FGC-sponsored or affiliated events to follow the preventative recommendations below. These recommendations are also beneficial to your monthly meeting or church.

Individuals

  • Wash your hands THOROUGHLY AND FREQUENTLY.
  • Confirm that your monthly meeting or church is holding worship beforehand. Many Quaker communities are cancelling in-person worship or opting to organize virtual Meeting for Worship. Look for email messages from your meeting or church, check their social media channels (if they have them), or contact them directly. Contact information for Quaker meetings can be found via Quaker Finder.
  • Greet one another using means that do not involve handshakes, hugging, or kissing. Some Friends have adopted greeting alternatives like waving, or verbally saying "Peace be with you." (Keep scrolling for a resource with 14 greeting alternatives
  • Avoid sharing food from the same plate and utensils, as well as beverages from the same container.
  • In addition to handwashing, use hand sanitizer. Bring your own travel size container. 
  • Sneeze and cough into a tissue and dispose of it in a trashcan immediately. DO NOT REUSE IT!
  • Refrain from using handkerchiefs (unless you are planning to wash it immediately after use).
  • Keep calm and follow updates from FGC and/or the primary event organizer. Stress can weaken your immune system and make you vulnerable to viruses. Do your best to practice prevention in the present moment, and be flexible if an in-person event evolves into a virtual gathering.

Meetings

  • Print and display posters like this one from the CDC in multiple places in your meeting space or event.
  • Publicize virtual Meeting for Worship opportunities or cancellation of in-person worship via email/listerv, on social media, and on your website. This will help inform Friends in your meeting and newcomers who are considering visiting your meeting or church for the first time.
  • Provide large containers of hand sanitizer near entrances, bathrooms, and in dining areas (especially at the front of the potluck line).
  • Consider alternatives to shaking hands at the rise of meeting.

Here are some queries to help you and your Quaker community organize your planning (adapted from the Wisconsin Council of Churches):

  • How can we reduce people’s chances of contracting a virus while at our meeting?
  • How can we respond to those in the meeting who are sick, worried, experiencing economic need and/or grieving due to this outbreak?
  • How will our meeting adapt our operations if many people are ill, or health officials recommend restricting contact or shutting down public events entirely?
  • How will we help our community of Friends recover once the crisis is over?

FGC will continue to monitor the situation and keep monthly meetings as well as FGC event attendees updated as the situation evolves. We know some Yearly Meetings are also issuing recommendations and updates related to their meeting and events via email, so please be sure to open those updates. Keep reading for featured articles and resources to assist you and your local Quaker community as we work together to try to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.

FGC Event Updates


Recommended Reading

Public Health Information

Resources for Organizing Worship Online

Pastoral Care and Self-Care Resources

Religious Education Resources for Parents and First Day School Teachers

 


Yearly Meeting Statements on COVID-19

 


Quaker Organization and Monthly Meeting Updates

  • Many Quaker communities are cancelling in-person worship or opting to organize virtual Meeting for Worship until further notice. Friends are encouraged to look for email messages from your meeting or church, check their meeting's social media channels (if they have them), or contact the meeting directly to confirm. Contact information for Quaker meetings can be found via Quaker Finder.
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has turned its Spring Lobby Weekend (March 29th and 30th) into a virtual event. Learn more here.
  • Herndon Friends Meeting, in suburban Washington D.C. (Submitted by Jay McClendon on March 13th, 2020): We have formed a task force, consisting of three members who are MDs, the clerk of our Communications and Outreach Committee who is also a medical writer (me), and our clerk. We've suspended in-person Meeting for Worship, and will be using Zoom for First Hour Discussion, and also for meeting in worship-sharing format, this Sunday. We're making specific efforts to keep in contact with older and high-risk members of our meeting. We're also using our social media channels to reach out to our surrounding community. Our task force meets several times day, as needed, via text, as the situation evolves here in Fairfax County, VA. Of course we are happy to have anyone join us on Zoom this Sunday.
  • St. Louis Monthly Meeting (Submitted by Sara Elizabeth Alsup, Clerk of Ministry and Caring Committee, on March 12th, 2020): St. Louis Monthly Meeting has encouraged friends to not shake hands at rise of meeting. We are also holding a called business meeting this Sunday to discuss next steps, precautions, and our response to COVID-19. We are reaching out directly to members who are particularly vulnerable both to contracting the virus, but also to economic impacts from job loss or lost wages. We are prepared to use our Fund for Suffering to help and offset, and are working to coordinate things like grocery runs for older members who don't feel safe going out. We're also thinking ahead at how to build community in virtual spaces and aware that our adult young friends (digital natives) can help our older friends in this. We have decided to suspend in person worship for this week and working to put some virtual things in place.

 


Recent Updates:

  • March 27th, 2020 - Financial support resources from Everence® and LSS Financial Counseling; details about Meeting for Worship with Attention to Recovery
  • March 26th, 2020 - Spiritual Deepening for Children; Online Prayer, Music, Worship, Sharing Resources in the Time of COVID-19 resource from the Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee; and virtual clerking video from New England Yearly Meeting and Emily Provance
  • March 23rd, 2020 - Added cancellation notice of North Pacific Yearly Meeting's annual session
  • March 19th, 2020 - FCNL virtual Spring Lobby Weekend information
  • March 18th, 2020 - Canadian Yearly Meeting cancellation message; reorganized Recommended Readings into sections for Public Health Information, Resources for Organizing Worship Online, Pastoral Care and Self-Care Resources and Religious Education Resources for Parents and First Day School Teachers; FGC resource How to Foster Community Online (created in January 2019); Christine Green's article "COVID-19 Inspired-Quaker Meeting Online with Babies, Dogs & a Moving Car"
  • March 15th, 2020 - South Central Yearly Meeting postponement message.
  • March 14th, 2020 - Cancellation notice from Piedmont Friends Fellowship and Piedmont Friends Yearly Meeting; article from Sojourners; virtual worship resource by Emily Provance.
  • March 13th, 2020 - Statement from New England Yearly Meeting and St. Louis Monthly Meeting; information from Baltimore Yearly Meeting, Southeastern Yearly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; information from Herndon Friends Meeting and Lake Erie Yearly Meeting; article on Quaker response to COVID-19 by Friends Journal;  and virtual Meeting for Worship directory by Western Friend.
  • March 11th, 2020 - Added guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada, PDF booklet by the CDC (many thanks to Emily Provance for making us aware of it via Facebook), and Being the Church Online.