Relating to External Organizations

When the next flu pandemic strikes, the very first people to get anti-virals—drugs like Tamiflu that may help prevent the illness—should be clergy.

That’s what Dr. Joel Kettner, Chief Medical Officer for the Province of Manitoba, said at the June 20-21 Faith Community Summit on Pandemic Preparedness at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg.

Kettner was joking—sort of. But he was also trying to make the serious point that, during a pandemic, “we will need people to keep us calm and help us not to panic.” Clergy, he said, will be counted on to help perform that role.

The important role that faith groups will play during a future pandemic was underscored repeatedly during the event. But how can your congregation be part of the response? It begins with conducting a survey of your congregation’s needs and resources and seeing what your group can offer to the community. It continues by contacting external organizations, like your local municipal government and regional health authority, to see how you can be of assistance when a pandemic strikes.

This is a very important thing to do. When the next pandemic strikes, local health care organizations and government services will be stretched to the breaking point. Says Randy Hull, who directs emergency preparedness for the City of Winnipeg, “City services will be stretched. Volunteers [from places of worship] will have a very large role to play.”

The information in these pages will tell you about the importance of acting locally, contacting your local municipal government and health authority and provide you with a sample letter so you can make that contact. The result will be a congregation that is ready to serve the community in the event of a pandemic, or any other kind of major emergency.