Calm Amidst the Storm: The Role of Religious Health Assets During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Religious Health Assets framework was created by Gary Gunderson and James R. Cochrane to call attention to the myriad of ways that public health can optimize the potential for health promotion inherent in religious communities. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for such collaboration between religion and public health institutions has come increasingly to the forefront. While previous survey-based studies have been conducted regarding the effect of COVID-19 on congregations, there remains a need to assess pandemic experiences of church leaders with regards to the religious health assets of congregations in respective communities. This qualitative study was designed in order to evaluate how local Christian leaders and congregations in one community have served as assets to public health promotion and implementation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. After conducting seven semi-structured interviews with local pastors and priests, three key themes emerged: the pandemic as a time for forced adaptations, the church’s ability to provide resources to congregants and the community, and the difficulties of pandemic-related decision-making for church leaders. These themes made clear that the primary ways in which churches served as public health assets during the pandemic were by contributing to the “leading causes of life” of their congregants and by providing an important source of human capital.