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Public Health Resources for Congregations

The H1N1 virus is prompting a growing number of public institutions to close or dramatically change their daily routines. Church groups feel a special responsibility to protect their members and to offer support during times of crisis, but this mission is challenged during an epidemic when public gatherings pose a potential health risk. In times like these, congregations must decide how best to minimize the risk while continuing to provide pastoral care and practical assistance to their members and communities.

The resources on this page offer planning tools, information, and concrete suggestions for dealing with a public health threat, including the current H1N1 virus. There is also a group of materials designed to inform and protect the immigrant community, a group doubly at-risk because it has been unfairly targeted as responsible for the crisis. Churches can be good neighbors to immigrants as well as sources of medically-accurate, compassionate information about the epidemic.

The most current information can be found at the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and at the World Health Organization website. Those two organizations have presented the same message, though news media organizations have at times slanted the story toward the sensational. Despite the sensationalism,

  • H1N1 is a “novel” flu, which means that people will not have an acquired immunity to it.
  • At present, the virus seems to be behaving much like “seasonal flu”, not anything like the “Spanish Influenza” of 1918-19.
  • The term “pandemic” indicates a widespread outbreak, but it does not address severity—in other words, you can have a widespread, but mild, outbreak.

In addition to the CDC and WHO sources, we recommend that you check the Health Department website for your own state to get the most recent information on local conditions and control efforts.

In the weeks ahead, Unitarian Universalist congregations will determine how best to serve their members while also helping reduce the spread of infection. This work is vitally important, and the Unitarian Universalist Association is committed to updating this information as soon as useful new resources become available.