Story in Brief
On March 14, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp executed an Executive Order declaring “A Public State of Emergency on the Novel Coronavirus,” which later led to a Shelter in Place order through April 13, 2020. In the midst of the pandemic, churches were required to close due to theses environments being deemed as possible COVID-19 spreaders. There was limited information being disseminated to this audience to aid them in reopening safely. In response UGA Extension in Chatham County launched a pilot initiative, COVID-19 Updates for Worship Congregations, a virtual training concentrating on African Methodist Episcopal (AME) faith-based denomination communities. The training was developed to assist them in returning to their pivotal role in Georgia’s communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilot program educated clergy and clergy staff on protective measures for congregational care, environmentally safe surface cleaning techniques, and how to create informative signage to ensure safety measures are followed, along with proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette as outlined by the CDC. Participants received access to printable signage templates, links to companies that offer PPE supplies and UGA COVID-19 Food Safety Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). The training also shared innovative, alternative and safe ways with for ministers to reach their congregations using social media platforms, on-line newsletters (such as MailChimp), car drive-in services, Facebook Live and YouTube. The pilot successfully reached 40 churches throughout Georgia. Of the organizations surveyed, 90 percent of them found the workshop content to be beneficial, and about 27 percent of them have been able to re-open using appropriate signage to ensure congregational safety. Although the remaining churches still have not reopened, they do have pending re-opening dates slated for later this year. Due to this training African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches were able to still create innovative and safe ways to reach their congregations via Facebook Live, Zoom and Mailchimp. Churches were also able to effectively and safely provide their communities fresh produce and canned goods through food drives, using UGA COVID-19 Food Safety Frequently Asked Questions.