March 24, 2020
February is often when people on college campuses are finalizing their plans to relax over Spring Break. But this year, for Dr. Jamie Aten and the team at Wheaton College’s Humanitarian Disaster Institute, work ramped up as they prepared for what looked like the beginnings of a pandemic.
“We have been monitoring the virus since early reports started surfacing at the beginning of the year. In late February, as the reality of what was coming became more clear, we began writing and preparing new resources. We began spreading the message of preparedness through op-eds, podcasts, and radio appearances,” said Dr. Jamie Aten, director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College.
In the last few weeks, the HDI team has churned our resources, including a manual titled Preparing Your Church for Coronavirus (COVID-19) and an HDI-Coronavirus Webinar series. Aten has also written a number of stories about coronavirus and the church for publications ranging from Psychology Today to Religion News Service. Reporters have included his insights in stories on the BBC and Associated Press, among others—all of which have helped to extend the message that free Coronavirus Resources for the Church are available.
“Research has shown that houses of worship are often one of the first places people turn when they are in crisis—whether they need physical, emotional, or spiritual support,” Aten said. “In a public health crisis, churches also face unique challenges and questions as a public gathering space. We created these resources to help pastors and church leaders navigate this crisis with confidence.”
Later in the month, on March 26 and 27, HDI and the National Association of Evangelicals are teaming up to host the COVID-19 Church Online Summit. This free digital summit will give churches the best resources for responding well amidst an unprecedented crisis.
“As so many people in our congregations and communities are feeling anxious about the unknown this outbreak presents, the church has an opportunity to replace panic with preparedness and live out God’s commandment to bring good news and healing to those who suffer and serve the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Kent Annan, director of Humanitarian Disaster Leadership at Wheaton College.
When asked how he and the HDI team were faring under the heavy workload, Aten replied: “There’s no doubt that it’s been an exhausting few weeks, but really we are buoyed by the feeling that God has called us to this work—and we pray that He will use our shared knowledge and experiences in order to benefit the church during this crisis.” –Emily Bratcher