The definitive guide to hosting safe community congregation services in light of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, everywhere mass public gatherings are prohibited. The outbreak is contagious and governments around the world has put in their best measures to control and curb the outbreak. Due to this, even the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended Umrah. The unprecedented suspension of the Umrah has raised uncertainty over the annual hajj pilgrimage, scheduled for the end of July. 

Knowing that nothing is spared by the outbreak, our Mosques and Community Centres too are as just penetrable. As a Socially responsible citizen  and community member, what should you do?

Don’t stress out too much. 

You’ve landed in the right place. 

Here, we’re going to unpack the best practices for Mosques and Centres leaders to continue their operations, congregation services or events in a manner that is in the best interest of your visitors and members.

HOW YOUR MOSQUE OR COMMUNITY CAN GO DIGITAL:

  1. Hosting Virtual Community Congregation 

There are two primary components of hosting a virtual congregation service:

  • The production of the congregation 
  • The publication of the congregation 

The production of your Mosques and Centres congregation services should include all of the elements of your normal service,(just like how you Live Stream and display your Jummah Sermons on physical screens)  but the visual elements should be physically organized so that all “stage events” are now in direct line-of-sight of your video cameras and audio equipment. Instead of the “stage” being central, now the viewpoint of the cameras becomes central. Your set design can no longer rest on the assumption that people can see and hear what’s going on in the building—they can see and hear what’s on their computers. That requires a different physical strategy for your production.

The publication of your events or congregations to a live-streaming virtual community environment requires more technical aptitude. There are several fantastic software products that enable your mosque and community to live-stream your congregation to video platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

 

  1. How to Facilitate Your Community 

If your entire community is logged on to watch your Jumaah sermons, you might as well give them an opportunity to touch base with each other and get meaningful fellowship with other believers.


One fantastic tool for this is CollabDeen. This tool offers community interaction capabilities. Your members (and visitors!) can log in, be updated on your sermons, and experience a virtual spiritual hour as in the comfort of their own space! 

If you’re concerned about your centre’s budget, remember that you’re saving money by keeping everyone home for the Fridays. You’re saving money on power, facilities, maintenance, and a host of other invisible budgetary items that accrue when thousands of people attended your congregation or event. 

Whatever tool you use, it’s important to supply your congregants with the capability of interacting with each other so that the community experience can feel participatory, and so that the digital format of the congregation service more accurately reflects what the Mosque or Centre is supposed to be.

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  1. How to Resume Small Groups

A Community App is the best way to continue small groups. Use this to manage Community events registration, group chat, updates, requests, scheduling changes, resource sharing and many more. Keep them engaged throughout the week, and communicate to your Mosque or Centre the best procedure for small groups. 

When it comes to meeting with the actual small group, Zoom and Skype are fantastic tools. They each enable everyone in a small group to hop into a digital meeting room and experience the full  and encouragement of other believers with none of the risk of encountering or spreading COVID-19. 

With incorporation of technology to the community, those who are ill are still able to participate in the your community events without them feeling left out or guilty.

 

  1. How to Accept or Collect Donations

Not able to attend congregation prayers or events will have direct impact on the community's funding. The temporarily suspension of Mosque service in Singapore for two weeks have resulted Al-Abrar Mosque donation to plummet of which previously are constantly receiving a donation amount of $5000 weekly. 
However, receiving is the easiest part of any donation service if your community is already set up with digital giving. Your mosque or community is in an ideal position to accept donations. If your congregants have already set up recurring giving, then you’ll be in a much better position. Your community would not want to miss an opportunity to help more people to start giving. 

For both of these, look no further than CollabDeen Giving. 

CollabDeen giving is available both on Digital Kiosk and on the App platform. 
All you need to do is direct people and members to your mosque or community app to give—whether to the general fund or for a special offering. Now, everyone can donate from anywhere anytime.

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  1. How to Greet People with Cautions Care

Greeting people with a handshake or sometimes with hugs at Mosques & Centres is a common act. The best way to defuse peoples’ tendency to reach out to a greeter physically is to put an unmissable sign right next to the front door that says: “We are a loving mosque. But for the time being and for everyone’s well-being, please refrain from physical contact.”

That saves your greeters from awkward conversations, and it saves people from their typical instincts to reach out and make physical contact with those they love in the community. Another way to frame it is: “Today, the way we love each other is by not hugging.”

The best response to this came from a Singaporean Minister, Mr Masagos Zulkifli  who introduced the temporary greeting form which is similar to Etrugul's. (palm to heart) 

 

  1. Taking Care of Yourself

Another precaution introduced by the Muslim body of Singapore, MUIS, is encouraging each believer to bring their own prayer mat during congregation prayers and having hand sanitizer handy.  Since congregation activities involve physical contact between congregants, it’s important that community members practice good hygiene models that minimizes the possibility of the spread of germs.

In times like this, you can also carry out your prayers at your office or any peaceful and suitable area. With CollabDeen interactive interface such as AR Qibla and Prayer Timing, you will never miss your obligation.

 

  1. How to coordinate Volunteers

Train all of your community volunteers on the best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Once they’ve been trained, task them with implementing procedures that help remind members to practice preventative hygiene, both personally and inter-personally.

  1. How to Successfully Communicate Important Information

The most important part of your community’s approach to COVID-19 is your communication strategy. If people don’t know what your policies are, they’ll assume there aren’t any. This could result either in people showing up to your mosque or community centre without taking the proper precautions or people choosing not to attend mosque or community centre because they feel the issue isn’t sufficiently addressed.

The first thing you must do is communicate to your community that you have a policy, but more importantly, which channels you will be updating with the latest information about your mosque’s policy on COVID-19. You should ideally be publishing these updates on every channel as often as you have them. This includes:

  • The Mosque / Community website
  • The Mosque / Community email list
  • The Mosque / Community text marketing list
  • The Mosque / Community app’s push notifications
  • The Mosque / Community social media accounts

Core to sustaining your community’s attendance during the COVID-19 scare is communication. The first thing you should do is, as a leadership team, draft an official statement regarding all of your best practices for attending any congregation services safely, and distribute that statement to as many outlets as possible.

In order to cement these ideas in peoples’ minds, it’s a good idea to share video with your community members before explaining exactly how you will practice the entire order of worship in a safe way. 
(watch Al-Islah Mosque Punggol video example on their social media platform). 
Your community can also continuously show the video created at the screens around the mosque or community centre. 

As you do all of this, be sure to update your emergency communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information.

 

Conclusion

Here are some very important guidelines for mosques and community centres in bullet form. 

  • Plan for staff absences.
  • Provide COVID-10 prevention supplies at your centres
  • Promote the practice of everyday preventative actions.
  • Develop a method for monitoring and tracking the COVID-19-related staff and member absences.
  • Plan ways to limit face-to-face contact between people.
  • Update your emergency communication plan for distributing timely and accurate information.
  • Stay informed about the local COVID-19 situation.
  • Be aware of temporary school dismissals in your area.
  • Communicate frequently with those in your communication chain.
  • Provide information that explains why and when on-site operations and services may be temporarily scaled back or your organization may be closed to non-essential visitors.
  • Educate staff and volunteers about how to keep themselves healthy when accompanying someone to a destination away from your facility.
  • Address the concerns of staff and volunteers who are at high risk for COVID-19 complications.
  • Put hand sanitizer next to every entryway.
  • Be socially responsible.

As more communities globally are beginning to experience the impact of Coronavirus, let us share with another the good practices and commendable approaches of communities that have experienced the outbreak earlier. When we unite against the virus, we will overcome this obstacle together, Insyallah.

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