The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) has changed the world. The pandemic has not abated; it looks to continue throughout 2021. The impact is pervasive. What does this mean for faith community nursing practice?
The scientific evidence supporting simple public health measures is unequivocal. These measures, if practiced universally, prevent transmission and save lives. Although these are individual actions, there must be consensus; a high percentage of the community must participate for the measures to be effective.
However, taking these public health actions is not without consequences. Significant social isolation can result. Mental health issues arise as social isolation continues. Fatigue with maintaining compliance is taxing. What does the pandemic mean for the faith community and faith community nursing practice?
My little church in West Jackson, Mississippi, hasn't gathered since early April 2020. We meet via Facebook Live and Zoom. Our church is poor, missional, and primarily African-American. Obesity, hypertension, and diabetes are pervasive. Church folks are uninsured or underinsured. The economic impact of the pandemic is felt. We are a hurting and wounded community. We ask ourselves, What does it mean to be the church when we aren't a physical place? Other congregations are having different experiences, even in the same metropolitan area; my friend tells me her church in the suburbs is meeting in person with social distancing, but folks visit outside. She doesn't feel safe, so she stopped attending.
While presenting challenges, wonderful opportunity awaits. The faith community is the ideal place to stop the pandemic. The faith community nurse (FCN) can explain and model the role of science in the Christian worldview. Through education and empowerment, changes in individual and corporate behavior that line up with public health recommendations are possible.
- Each FCN is responsible to assess the local situation. What are local epidemiological trends, current status, strengths and weaknesses, learning needs, modes of communication, and emerging mental health issues with continued isolation? This community assessment should drive plans for addressing the pandemic. The practice will be as varied as our faith communities! For example, for the hurting, is there space and time provided for corporate lament? For the uninsured, are free masks and free COVID-19 testing available?
- Be the science expert: Educate yourself about SARS-CoV-2 and infectious disease epidemiology. Wiersinga et al. (2020) provide general information. Schmidt (2019) offers a clear description of herd immunity.
- Model not only public health behaviors but also attitudes on how you value science. Don't let science be politicized. Explain the contributions of science to a Christian worldview. Science is a gift from God and the truths from science are to be used for our good. Kuyper (2010) described in his original writings in 1898 how John Calvin, when confronted with the Black Death plague, not only prayed and cared for the ill, but also addressed the epidemic's physical causes. With a scientific worldview, Kuyper described the progression from the discrete work of the scientist in knowledge discovery to understanding the created order of the universe. The scientist thus makes a valued contribution to the redemption of creation.
- Provide a strong voice to church leadership. Because the faith community is a community, appeal to your congregants that they do this not just for their own sakes but for others, for the common good.
In the time of pandemic, the ideal faith community can be a place of refuge and of safety—a glimpse of heaven. Physical needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs would be met. People would feel connection and belonging. The contributions made by the faith community nurse during this pandemic can make a real change in individual and community health. The pandemic can be addressed using the person of the faith community nurse in the context of the faith community.
Kuyper A. (2010). Lectures on Calvinism: Six lectures from the Stone Foundation lectures delivered at Princeton University
. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Schmidt K. (2019). Measles and vaccination: A resurrected disease, a conflicted response. Journal of Christian Nursing
, 36(4), 214–221. https://doi.org/10.1097/CNJ.0000000000000654
Wiersinga W. J., Rhodes A., Cheng A. C., Peacock S. J., Prescott H. C. (2020). Pathophysiology, transmission, diagnosis, and treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): A review. JAMA
, 324(8), 782–793. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.12839