Letter to Faith Communities Public Health Sheffield
Dear Faith Communities
We are writing to you in these challenging times to ask for your continued care and support in responding to the Coronavirus crisis.
The local authority here in Sheffield is working hard on ensuring that we do everything we can to protect our residents from the effects of the COVID19 Coronavirus and we need your help as our Faith Communities in this crucial work.
There are three crucial areas where we believe you can make a significant difference, and where we would ask your engagement and leadership: prevention, caring for the most vulnerable and providing reassurance and hope
It is imperative that as beacons of hope in our community we lead by example in following national and local guidance not only in supporting communities but helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
With many of our congregations and communities who rely on the additional services we provide many will find themselves in high risk group categories, most vulnerable to the disease due to underlying conditions, ill health, and age. It is therefore absolutely vital that we heed advice and support our communities whilst they too listen and act.
We therefore call upon all our faith communities to cancel all public facing worship as per national guidance and to heed local guidance as per public health.
During this time, places of worship may remain open for staff management of the place of worship during which it is vital that social distancing is adhered to.
The reasoning for social distancing is to reduce the opportunities to transmit the virus. The evidence is really clear that this slows the spread of the virus, slows the epidemic and gives the NHS the best chance possible to cope with care for those who need it.
Public facing worship that involves gathering people together must be cancelled with immediate effect. Whilst this may difficult for some it is vital in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.
It is really important we all stick with this guidance; it protects us, our families, our loved ones and will give the health service the best chance. If we all abide by this we anticipate there will be a dramatic reduction in the overall number of people with the illness and those that need intensive care and, importantly maximise the protection that we can give to those most vulnerable to severe illness
Please help in the fight to protect our communities and those in the NHS who will have to look after them by supporting your place of worship in the following guidance.
It is with a heavy heart that we are asking you, in line with the advice from Government and increasing numbers of faith groups, to suspend public worship until further notice and follow social distancing guidance.
You can find the guidance at the following website www.sheffaithcomm.co.uk which has links from the government and the links to various faith groups advice.
We need to follow this guidance with great care, help people adjust to the new reality we will be living with for some months, but retain what we can of the rhythm of spiritual life which is so important to so many.
2. Caring for the Most Vulnerable
It is a sign of a civilised society, and a mark of all faiths, that we have a particular concern to those most vulnerable at these times, as a shared investment in the dignity and value of our common humanity. We ask you to continue playing your inspirational role in building and maintaining a society which embodies these values.
There are many things you can do:
• ensuring those who hunger, those who are excluded, those who are frightened or in need are given support, comfort and solace.
• Ensuring foodbanks have food,
• ensuring that people who are isolated or are in self-isolation can get support in essential deliveries
• Ensuring that people self-isolating because of their symptoms or because of their vulnerability are reminded of our love and care for them through email, phone calls or letter.
In particular we invite you to:
• Participate in existing volunteer networks
• Be ready to volunteer for the national call for volunteers which will come shortly
• If you have a body of volunteers or any social care ministry, please let us know your key contacts so we can link you into the Voluntary Community and Faith sector through www.vas.org to co-ordinate with them. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your key contacts email and phone number. We thank those who have already done that.
3. Reassuring and Providing Hope
We will, in time, overcome this public health crisis. But we face another potential crisis, of anxiety, fear and panic. We ask you to play your part in reassuring our City that we will overcome. Some of you are keeping your places of worship open for private prayer and quiet, using frequent cleaning of touchpoints and asking people to implement social distancing with great care.
Others among you are moving worship and prayer online, or moving to telephone or postal support. Public messages of reassurance and unity from your leaders, stories of coping spiritually and practically in these times and an ability to ensure people remain calm, purposeful and have hope through these times will be among the most important things you can do.
If you are worried about infection control and need guidance on cleaning, you can find this at the links below.
We thank you for all you do and consider ourselves richly gifted to have a faith sector so vibrant, diverse and active. Your sustained presence, upholding the people of our city in hope at these times will have a major impact.
Signed Director of Health Greg Fell
Signed Faith Sector Lead Sheffield Shahida Siddique