Surgeon general urges faith communities to help slow virus

Miscellany/Deirdre C. Mays: A sign on the door of Blessed Sacrament in Charleston advises parishioners when the church is open for prayer.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams urged the nation’s faith community this week to share the details of the federal effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re trying to power and equip faith leaders to do what works so we can keep our citizens safe from harm,” Adams said. He gave the opening address March 26 at the two-day COVID-19 Church Online Summit.

The steps the faith community should take to slow the spread of the virus are the same ones outlined to the country in the “15-Day Plan” recommended by the White House.

“This is a massive, proactive and protective plan for the nation,” Adams said, “and we need you to share it with your congregation, and use your voices to encourage its adoption,” and ask those you share it with to share it with others.

The summit is an effort led by the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. It describes itself as the nation’s first faith-based academic disaster research center, whose mission is to “help prepare and care for a disaster-filled world.”

Speakers from the institute joined religious leaders and others from across the country in discussing topics that included:

  • Crisis communications best practices for churches.
  • Doing church creatively in response to a prolonged crisis.
  • Government support and grant-writing in times of crisis.
  • Embracing home church and small, virtual gatherings.
  • Caring for the elderly.
  • Immigrants, refugees and the Church in the COVID-19 moment.
  • Ministering to children and families during the pandemic.
  • Self-care for church leaders.
  • Serving people impacted by disability during COVID-19 and beyond.
  • Doing church creatively in response to a prolonged crisis.

Adams said faith-based community leaders should follow the guidance of their local health departments and “find ways to partner with them.” In addition, local leaders should develop their own plan “to protect your employees and the people you serve.”

Earlier this month, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of the Diocese of Charleston announced that no sacramental or other liturgical celebrations were to take place anywhere in the diocese, effective March 17 through April 1. He updated that information March 24, announcing that the diocese would “continue to celebrate Mass virtually, until further notice.”

He also announced that Holy Week and Easter Sunday Mass would be celebrated virtually.

In the meantime, parishes across the state are continuing the work of the Holy Spirit in finding ways to celebrate God’s presence amid the pandemic. Prince of Peace Church in Taylors has employed what it calls the “POP Virtual Community,” with virtual access to the parish via Facebook, YouTube and Zoom.

Kyle Jean Heap, communications director for Prince of Peace Church and School, said the parish has worked together “since day one” to immediately begin live Mass Tuesday through Sunday, groups for women, for prayer, for youth and more.

The COVID-19 summit will be available online until Easter. To register go to