March 13, 2020

Congregational Response to COVID-19

Governor Lee has declared a state of emergency for the state of Tennessee as cases of COVID-19 continue to spread across the state. Schools are closing, large gatherings are being cancelled and churches are developing contingency plans for worship services and small group gatherings.

As individuals hunker down and prepare for extended time in their homes and possible serious illness, Tennessee’s most vulnerable populations are even more at risk. The community of faith is called to care for the poor and needy, “Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” (Deuteronomy 15:11)

Now is the time to ask: How can my faith community or nonprofit respond to the needs of children and the elderly in our area who are most at risk? This office has been reaching out to state and local health department officials, faith communities, and local nonprofits. Following are some suggestions from them that we urge you to consider:

• Have a congregation member serve as a liaison with your local health department to assess local needs and response required. It is critical to have their input and to coordinate efforts.

• Do you currently participate in a school feeding program? Contact the school leaders and/or local coordinator to see if you can arrange to deliver food to specific neighborhoods or homes where children are located.

• Do you have a Parish Nurse in your congregation? Or other medical professionals? Perhaps he/she can train a team to go to homes and housing projects where “the least of these” are in critical need. Form partnerships with local nursing and medical schools for support. Be sure to coordinate first with the Health Department.

• Do you sponsor or contribute to a local food pantry? Instead of having people come to you to receive food, can you arrange to go to specific neighborhoods and set up new and creative distribution avenues?

• Does your church sponsor preschool and/or after school programs, etc.? Many parents desperately need to be able to continue working outside their homes during this time. Look at ways you can offer continuing care and support to the families you serve.

• Do you host recovery groups or other regularly scheduled community gatherings? If these gatherings are cancelled, plan to host virtual gatherings using your congregation’s video conferencing tools.

Be creative! As group gatherings are cancelled, you will continue to find needs and we ask that you look for strategies to fill them. This office is here to help you connect with state and local agencies and other faith-based and community organizations who are eager to provide solutions to the problems our citizens will face over the next few weeks.

Please reach out to us as needs arise and you seek partners to help you serve in your community. Thank you for your faithful service to our state in this time of crisis.

Key Resources:

Tennessee Department of Health

• Twitter:


Center for Disease Control

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