Responding to Coronavirus and other emergencies


Our Covid-19 Reopening plan, Journeying by Stages. Updated 3-19-21

May 26, 2020 – A joint statement from RI Faith Leaders on Reopening

April 9, Maundy Thursday – A message from Rhode Island’s Faith Leaders

March 16, 2020 – A message from our Bishop.

The Bishop has directed congregations to suspend in-person public worship. March 14, 2020

Messages from the Presiding Bishop: March 10, March 12, March 17

Guidance from the Church of England.

Worship, and Pray

Worship online  – our parishes, and resources

Prayers compiled

Help with the new age of online ministry from VTS

Spanish Language Resources

Hebert Palomino, Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at the School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University, is releasing a series of videos in Spanish on caring for people in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you serve in a ministry context with Spanish-speaking persons, Dr. Palomino encourages you to make use of these videos and share them with others. Here are links for the first three videos; he plans to release one or more additional videos each week.
Definiendo la crisis
Que esperar en medio de una crisis
Cómo manejar las Cómo manejar las emociones descompensadoras


New – We have detailed information regarding sewing face masks, and helping the homeless, here.

The stress of this pandemic has many effects. This page lists resources for dealing with mental health, addiction, and domestic violence.

Mail sermons or meditations to people who are not online. Send handwritten notes and cards. Is art part of your home-school program? Ask if you may send those masterpieces to nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Use the back pages to write notes to family and friends.

Create a phone tree and call each other to check in.

Deliver meals or food as needed. If you have to go out, call elders you know, call your neighbors, and ask what they need. Help others to stay in.

Establish prayer partners and pray for each other over the phone. Commit to keep praying.

Check in with the local food pantry, ask how you can help.

Ask everyone you interact with how you can pray for them and how you can help them.

Ask yourself – how do I keep doing these things when the emergency is past?

Do you sew? Hospitals are looking for help making masks.

Many of our congregations host AA meetings, and many of us have friends and family dealing with addiction. Make sure they know that there are resources online.

Please continue to support your church by sending in your offering. Make the jump to online giving, or set up an automatic transfer schedule from your bank. There are bills that still need to be paid.

Clergy Resources

NewHymns made available by Church Publishing for Fall 2020. Food for thought, an article from The American Organist about streaming.

NewJourneying by Stages, guidance for re-opening.

New – A compilation of suggestions and resources to assist you in your continuing online presence.

The latest guidance from the state regarding re-opening considerations.

Covid-19 Reopening plan template.

Guidance for Funeral Homes from RI Department of Health.

Looking for music to stream? More information about copyright and use of music for streaming is here, and here.

HR issues, addressed by our consultant. Returning, or not, from unemployment.

Ministry in a Time of Pandemic

Caring for Church Buildings. Advice from the CofE. Not all of the information is applicable here, but there are some good suggestions.

End of life pastoral care guidelines, from the Bishop.

If you are looking for information regarding putting your congregation’s service online, start here. There are additional resources here, and here. Regarding the use of music online: OneLicense.

This is a link to a survey that you might adapt for finding out what are the most pressing needs of your parish community.

Having issues with using Zoom? There is a great tutorial here.

This is a summary of a webinar sponsored by Episcopal Relief and Development, addressing the stress of isolation and quarantine. Lists some helpful resources and includes a link to a recording of the webinar.

Regarding congregational financial concerns.

We have put together some advice regarding planning for emergency situations. This page will be updated as situations warrant.

 Lifespan has released temporary, guidance regarding hospital visits during this time.



Emergency Management

Is your congregation prepared in the event of an emergency? If a devastating storm hits, or there is an outbreak of something like the coronavirus, what will you do?

Points to consider:

  • Get your contact lists up to date! You will need to use your congregation’s lists – mail/email/phone/etc, to keep in touch with people. Consider setting up a phone tree, so that those who are not online are not cut off. The Diocese would very much like to have your lists as well, so that we are in a position to be helpful in reaching out to those affected.
  • Check with your local Emergency Managers to see if they might need any assistance, and to get yourself in the informational loop. Your buildings might not qualify as emergency shelters, but there are other things that could be of service such as storing emergency food stores, serving as cell phone charging stations for area residents, being a water distribution point, etc.
  • Consider how to worship. Can any of the Daily Offices be led via Facebook Live, or a YouTube channel? This is a very helpful video explaining how to get your service on Facebook. (We have a list of additional online worship suggestions available here, if your congregation isn’t set up to provide them.)
  • Consider how to keep the business of your congregation running. Is telecommuting possible? Is online bill paying set up? Online pledging? Do your parishioners know they can arrange auto-payments from their bank?
  • How do you stay in touch? There are number of ways to continue holding meetings, checking in, even worshiping. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Live, YouTube
  • If you are taking infection control steps during services (‘hands-off” during the peace, communion in one kind, etc) you must communicate this. Place a note in the bulletin, make an announcement at the start of the service, post to your website, put a note in your weekly email.
  • Encourage your congregants to be prepared for an emergency. (Always a good idea.) Bottled water, non-perishable foods, and a sufficient supply of necessary medications should be on hand when emergency strikes.


Coronavirus: what we haven’t heard from Government

5th March 2020

The Bishop’s Coronavirus Golden Rules

Not official advice: read and heed that here – but this is food-for-thought about our attitudes.

Golden Rule One: Each one of us can think about how we can protect and support our neighbours. So much of the public rhetoric is sowing fear about the danger of other people. So, taking all the  official precautions,  offer help and reassurance to others – and don’t demonise anyone or any group.

Golden Rule Two: Think about who may be suffering more than me. For those of us who are healthy there is much less to worry about but the elderly, the housebound and those with chronic health conditions may be very anxious. How about each church undertaking an audit of all the vulnerable people they know and sharing out the responsibility to phone them each day. There’s nothing like a friendly voice to offer solace when someone is worried. A smile can bring cheer, even on the phone. If you visit, follow all the official precautions or don’t go.

Golden Rule Three: Don’t give into panic and start hoarding food. There is plenty to go around, so practise the Christian discipline of sharing. Ask your neighbours what they need and do you best to help them get it. If you are self-isolating you will of course need some supplies.

Golden Rule Four: Live today to the full. None of us ever know what the future holds. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 25 – 34), Jesus challenged his followers to live each day fully and not be afraid. Every time we are tempted to give in to fear we need to make a conscious choice to respond in trust and openness.

And, along with just over half the adults in the UK, don’t forget to pray. Here’s a suggestion from the Revd Louise Collins, a Team Vicar in Borehamwood, Herts:

Dear God our Shield and our Defender, guide and protect my neighbour in this time of health emergency; deliver them from all harm and may your love and care ever grow in this place. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

+Alan St Albans

Do you have your suggestions of other Golden Rules to help us during this time? Please tweet them #coronagoldenrules


Helpful links: CDC general advice for preventing the spread of infectious disease Advice for public gatherings Specific advice for Churches Coronavirus faq page Registry for anyone with oxygen or other medical equipment at home, or with other needs that first responders might need to know.

Outside Groups and Special Events

The Church Insurance Agency Corporation (CIAC) has helpful recommendations in regard to the use of your church property by outside groups.

Outside groups often fall into two different categories:
a) legal entities that want to lease your space
b) small groups of people who want to use your space free of charge for periodic activities

Allowing those small groups of people (like a knitting or a book club) to use your space is ministry of the church, but anything that sounds like a business should go through a formal process before being permitted to use the space.

Leasing Space to Outside Entities

Make sure the proper insurance is in place and, with the help of legal counsel, make written agreements with outside parties about the terms of use.

  • A group holding an activity at your church should provide evidence of insurance by producing a certificate of liability
  • Groups leasing space from the church should have the church named as additional insured on their insurance policy
  • Leases should also include a hold harmless provision between the two parties (templates available on the diocesan website)
  • There should be an agreement as to who will be responsible for maintenance and housekeeping regarding the space being used
  • Be sure the group using your property understands any restrictions or hazards that they need to be aware of
  • Complete a safety checklist before turning over the care and control of the property
  • Check with your bishop’s office to determine if Standing Committee approval is needed for leases over one year in length
  • Users should typically be non-profit organizations such as AA, Boy Scouts, etc.

Hosting Outside Events

Many activities other than services might occur on church property. Hosting events in your church facility can be an important part of your church’s community outreach and a critical factor in raising necessary funds. You could host a fundraising event that involves rides or bounce houses for children. You might take a group of children on a field trip to a nearby lake. You may host a wedding reception on your property at which liquor is served.

Church leaders need to do their homework when adding new types of community and church events, particularly those that take place at venues other than church property or that feature different kinds of catering and entertainment arrangements. It’s worth a call to your insurance agent so your church leaders can put insurance and operational procedures in place for whatever you have coming up. Your agent can help you develop checklists and guidelines to have on file for staff and volunteers.

When holding church-sponsored events offsite caterers, homeowners, facility managers, and other key event participants should meet with church leaders and the church’s insurance agent well in advance of the event to discuss potential liability issues and how inspections, safety issues, and coverage should be coordinated.

When holding a festival for the community on church property:

Just as you would do when hosting events for your church community, you should build specific protections into your risk management plans when hosting amusement rides, food festivals, or other events open to the wider community.

  • Make sure you have insurance coverage for Host Liquor Liability, as well as per-event liability coverage for concerts, amusement rides, and the use of inflatables such as jumpers and waterslides.
  • Outside contractors offering such services should provide current and verifiable proof of insurance.
  • Train volunteers and church employees responsible for monitoring the safety of rides and activities for children and adults.
  • Responsible adults should be watching for rough play, too many kids on a ride or inflatable, or kids who are too tired to stay with the others.
  • They should also watch to make sure that the rides are functioning safely and the inflatable has enough air. Be sure the church has enough insurance to cover all of the renters, exhibitors, service providers, and volunteer workers at the event.
Guidelines for weddings, concerts, and parties:
  • Require wedding parties and other renters to provide their own proof of insurance for whatever liability issues you may identify. Renters will need to secure coverage of a specific minimum limit to compensate the church in case of cancellation of the event, liability coverage for alcohol-related accidents, or other damage or problems for which the church might be held liable. You should also require that the church be listed as an additional insured party.
  • Provide strict scheduling guidelines for the use of all of the church facilities
  • Provide neighborhood noise restrictions in writing, and explain and enforce them
  • Hire all security personnel for events. Do not leave this to the renter
Train staff and volunteers to maintain a safe environment:

Just as you should assign responsible adults to supervise minors and their activities, one staff person should be assigned as the safety and risk officer for any event sponsored by the church. This person should be properly trained, then supervise training for subordinates for special events.


Bounce Houses (and other inflatables)
  • Require the rental company providing the inflatable to provide proof of insurance.
  • Before setting up the inflatable, check its condition to make sure there are no rips or holes.
  • When setting up the inflatable, choose a flat area and place a tarp on the ground to protect the bottom from rips or holes.
  • The inflatable should be staked and weighted down.
  • The inflatable should be fully inflated and not sagging; this will increase the likelihood that children will not land on each other.
  • Only children of similar sizes and ages should use the inflatable at the same time.
  • Limit the number of children using the inflatable at any one time.
  • Remove children who are tired and therefore more likely to be injured.
  • Provide adult supervision (two or more adults are preferable) at all times; place an emphasis on avoiding rough play.
Liquor Liability
  • Avoid serving alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 by checking identification.
  • Do not serve someone who appears to be inebriated.
  • Institute a drink limit.
  • Make sure non-alcoholic beverages are available.
  • Limit events to within a certain timeframe.
  • When an outside party (such as a wedding) uses your premises, the church may require a certificate of insurance from the vendor.
  • Check licensing requirements and determine if your organization is required to secure a liquor license (generally true in RI)
  • Consider the use of a professional bartender and require that they provide a certificate of insurance showing coverage for liquor liability.
  • Review the diocesan alcohol policy
Water Activities
  • Never leave a child unsupervised around water.
  • Never allow participants to swim alone.
  • Only allow participants to swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
  • Participants should understand your requirement to read and obey all signs.
  • An adult experienced in CPR should be present at all activities involving children and water.
  • Children should be tested on skill level.
  • Inexperienced swimmers should explore no deeper than waist-deep, and non-swimmers should be required to wear personal flotation devices.
  • Stop activities at the first signs of bad weather.
  • A safety inspection should be completed before the use of watercraft.
  • Never combine events that include alcohol and water activities.
  • Do not allow head-first diving at pools, lakes, and rivers.
  • Do not allow the use of personal watercraft, such as jet skis.
  • When boating, leave an itinerary with someone at the church; include the route, expected time of travel, and mobile phone numbers.


General Information

The policy offered by CIAC reads as follows:
“Insured” includes: “your” member or volunteer, but only for liability incurred while engaged in activities authorized
by and performed on behalf of “you.”

They pay all sums which an insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages due to bodily injury…caused by an occurrence which takes place in the coverage territory, and the bodily injury or property damage must occur during the policy period. You can download and print an article, Outside Groups Using Church Space that describes CIAC’s recommendations and polices. You also can find this information on pages 73-79 of the Safety & Insurance Handbook

Should you have additional questions or concerns, please contact CIAC at (800) 293-3525.






Liability Insurance for Lay Leaders & Volunteers

You may have a vestry members or other volunteer ask you if they are covered by your insurance. Or you may wonder what happens, for example, if someone who has access to money, steals it! Church Insurance has you covered.

The Directors & Officers Employment Practices policy is designed to protect Episcopal institutions, their employees, trustees, vestry members and volunteers against the following:

Wrongful Acts of individuals acting on behalf of the organization. It provides defense and pays covered awards up to a total of $1 million per participant.

Employment Practices Liability Covered are allegations of discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, retaliation, misrepresentation to an applicant, libel, slander, defamation, failure to employ, deprived opportunity, wrongful evaluation or demotion, wrongful discipline, failure to enforce policy and violation of civil rights.

You can DOWNLOAD the Director & Officers Liability policy to share with others.

Check your policy to make sure you didn’t exclude this coverage — it is extremely important that every church and related entity carry this insurance. If you have a related entity — e.g., an organization that you control, even if it is a separate 501c3, make sure Church Insurance knows it belongs to you and specifically lists it on your policy. They will often include that entity at no extra charge. Schools and nursing homes are an exception and need their own policy.


Questions and Answers

Q: What are some typical claims common to a church?

A common Directors’ & Officers’ claim would be a suit against members of the vestry alleging financial mismanagement. In this case, the policy would provide both defense and indemnity coverage for the church and the individual vestry members. Claims can also arise during or after the calling of a new rector from one or several members of the congregation who are upset with the process or decision.

Q: Is there a deductible?

Yes, all policies contain a retention which is the dollar value of the loss you retain. In this way, it is just like a property deductible. Retentions range from $500 for small parishes up to $10,000 for large dioceses.

Q: Is there coverage for claims evolving from our operations in the past?

Yes, the Church Insurance Agency Corporation program does not have the prior acts exclusion found on most policies.

Q: Are volunteers included under the policy? 

Yes, any volunteer performing an authorized activity on the insured’s behalf is covered under the policy. The volunteer coverage definition in the policy is extremely broad.

Q: Who can participate in this program? 

The program is exclusively for Episcopal parishes, missions, dioceses and organizations.

Q: What can we do to help lessen the possibility of a claim? 

CIAC offers risk analysis and loss prevention tips designed specifically for Episcopal Entities. Employment Practices liability claims is one of the fastest growing liability areas. Over the past few years, the Episcopal Church has averaged more than 20 wrongful termination claims annually.

[NOTE: Call the diocese BEFORE you take any action to terminate an employee!]

Certificate of Insurance

There may be times when someone asks you for your church’s Certificate of Insurance. This is usually when you are renting space somewhere. Church Insurance will provide you with that certificate. Simply download the form below and follow the directions.

Certificate of Insurance Request Form

Stained Glass Windows

Many Episcopal churches incorporate a variety of stained glass windows that glorify God, memorialize benefactors, and beautify the worship space. The value of these windows— financially, historically and sentimentally—is significant. Thus, caring for and preserving them is an important aspect of church facilities management. Although they are durable and designed to withstand normal operational and environmental stresses, stained glass windows deserve additional attention. Church Insurance provides the following brochure with tips on how you can take care of your windows

DOWNLOAD Preserving Stained Glass Windows

Filing an Insurance Claim

To Report a Claim

Whenever there is knowledge of an actual claim or potential claim, a report to The Church Insurance Company should be made as soon as possible. Prompt reporting allows us to better serve our clients by quickly initiating the claim process resulting in mitigating the loss and timely resolution of the claim.

If you suffer a major loss, contact our Claims Center:

  • Phone: (800) 223-5705
  • Fax: (212) 592-9426

After Hours/Emergency Claims
Call (800) 223-5705 for instructions on how to reach Cunningham-Lindsey, our main field adjustment/investigation company, for whatever emergency action they believe is necessary to handle the situation.

Sensitive Claims
To report claims of great sensitivity (such as misconduct matters or severe injury), please call the following senior claims personnel:

  • Samuel Carucci, Esq, Vice President, Claims (800) 223-6602, ext. 1348
  • Kenneth Miller, Claims Examiner (800) 223-6602, ext. 1340

Safety and Insurance Handbook

Many predicaments might befall a church or religious institution. These problems range from natural disasters to embezzlement to auto accidents. This book is meant to act as a reference and a guide. It’s divided into eight sections that look deeply into the types of insurance that every institution should have to be adequately protected:


General Liability

Directors and Officers Liability/EmploymenPractices Liability

Auto, including Hired and NonOwned

Workers Compensation and Employers Liability

Excess/Umbrella Liability

Commercial Crime

Travel Accident and Sickness

DOWNLOAD the Safety & Insurance Handbook