Welcome! This "Faith Health Rhetoric" project traces developing language and rhetoric of faith-based organizations responding to the COVID-19 situation in Seattle. Please note that this project is a work in progress. For example, the screenshot below from the CDC website on "Coronavirus" was taken on March 8th, 2020. On March 9th, there were additional links to information in Chinese and Spanish. Our pages continue to develop as analysis continues.
Since Seattle is an early model and case study for other locations in the country, we are making this information available as soon as possible. We are not making recommendations, but describing what is actually happening. Since we have not had time for an in-depth peer review process of our results, we are also providing copies of original texts with our coded notes for transparency in our research process.
On March 29th, Gov. Inslee issued a state of emergency proclamation in Washington State. In the first week of March 2020, the Center for Disease Control recommended against large gatherings of people in Seattle, WA. There were several meetings between clergy, Governor Inslee, the CDC and King County Department of Health. In the broader context of Seattle March 5th-7th, many colleges and universities shifted their face-to-face classes to online instruction. For many faith-based communities, however, the act of gathering together is an important spiritual practice, not just as a mechanism of instruction.
On March 11th, Governor Inslee further restricted gathering sizes to less than 250 people in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. On March 13th, this was extended to all counties in Washington State, and on March 16th, the gathering size was reduced to 50 people. Copies of these original documents are available on our key developments page.
While the faith communities in the Seattle area have responded to the coronavirus situation in a variety of ways, they have also communicated crucial information about the COVID-19 situation and their responses to their congregations. This is particularly interesting because these groups are not just responding to policy and recommendations, but grappling with community values when one of those values is to meet together. Several faith-based organizations in Seattle distributed email notifications and updates about their own decisions and recommendations, especially around Thursday, March 5th and into the weekend, which drew our attention to the role that these organizations are playing in communicating the public health situation. Other surges of communication occurred after Gov. Inslee's updated proclamations, especially March 11-13th.
Again, this is a descriptive project, not a prescriptive one. In other words, we're analyzing what people are actually doing, not what they should be doing. We are compiling resources of notifications/communications from faith based organizations on their coronavirus responses and running a rhetorical analysis on the situation as it develops. Some initial areas of interest are tone, logistics, values, and connections to other groups/resources. We're not as interested in the particular faith tradition from which each message comes at this point although we acknowledge this is significant. We're more interested in the localized response to a specific congregation and the degree to which its authors are interfacing with other sources of information.
Our method of data collection is gathering information available to the public via web sources. We were already on several newsletter mailing lists and have added ourselves to several more to keep a finger on the pulse of new developments. We also placed a call on social media and communication across personal networks requesting people to send any communications they receive from their Seattle faith communities. Since then, people have forwarded messages or sent screen shots of additional information.
We now have 70+ sample texts, but it is important to note that we do not have ALL information from ALL faith-based communities. Different communities use different platforms, and information on official websites have often differed from groups' newsletters, facebook pages, texting, etc. Some communities have communication methods that are less visible or accessible to outsiders. While limitations to availability of data remain, the texts included in the analysis form a cross-sectional "snap shot" of general patterns.
You can use the navigation bar to the left to explore major findings, which are organized as follows:
sources & connections
tone & metaphors
values & reasoning
scriptures & traditions