Coronavirus: How Religious Communities Are Worshiping Together While Apart

Mar 26, 2020
Originally published on March 26, 2020 1:16 pm

We discuss how faith communities across America are worshiping together during the coronavirus outbreak.


Elaine Howard Ecklund, director of the religion and public life program at Rice University. Professor of sociology. (@RiceRPLP)

Rabbi Rachel Greengrass, associate rabbi and Jewish life coordinator at Temple Beth Am, a Reform synagogue in Pinecrest, Florida. (@RabbiGreengrass)

Reverend Joshua Lazard, minister at Duke University Chapel. Adviser to Duke University’s student gospel choir, “United in Praise.” (@theuppitynegro)

Imam Omar Suleiman, founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. Resident scholar at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center. (@omarsuleiman504)

From The Reading List

Christianity Today: “It’s Hard to Close Black Churches amid COVID-19” — “When deciding to close the doors of black churches, congregational leaders across the US wrestle with unique considerations. Paul J. James, pastor of CareView Community Church in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, noted in an interview with The Undefeated how closing is ‘counterintuitive to most churches, especially the black church… where we’re just glad to get together because of how hard life has been historically for us here in America. Church has been a safe place for us. It’s been a safe harbor. Now here we are faced with the inability to come together.’

“Last week, the federal government strongly urged Americans not to gather in groups of more than 10, and restrictions keep coming. We suspect that many churches will close in the near future, but the decision will not been easy.

“In St. Louis, the mayor hosted a teleconference with 300 clergy, including many of black churches, to urge them not to hold services. While some chose to stop meetings and modify their ministries, others struggled to make the change.”

Houston Public Media: “Religion In Quarantine: How Faith Groups Are Adapting To The Coronavirus” — “This past Sunday morning, the cantor sang a familiar psalm at the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Anthony of Padua in The Woodlands: ‘The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.’

“Usually, some 1,500 parishioners sing in response. Except this Sunday, the pews were empty. Instead, some 3,000 people were watching on Facebook. ‘It’s definitely what I would call a new ballgame,’ said Rev. Tom Rafferty, pastor at St. Anthony.

“’And I think it’s going to have an effect on how we do church long after this virus.’

In this time of quarantine, nearly all religions have to figure out how to practice their faith without being physically together to celebrate, whether it’s Easter, Passover or Ramadan.

“At first, several groups in the region decided on their own to practice social distancing and suspend public congregations, including the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, many synogogues and the Islamic Society of Greater Houston. That became an order Tuesday, with Harris County’s new directive for residents to stay home except for essential workers. The order allows faith leaders, however, to still minister one-on-one for spiritual guidance and mental health.”

Time: “How Religious Leaders Can Help Stop the Spread of Coronavirus” — “More than a third of all American adults attend religious services each week, and some 50% belong to some religious institutions. Based on my research on our religious communities, I believe that even with their doors closed, religious organizations can still be vital partners in transmitting accurate scientific information about the coronavirus.

“For the past 15 years, I have been studying the interactions between religious and scientific communities. While we may regard religion and science as at odds in our culture, the fact is that many Americans rely on their religious leaders to guide their attitudes about scientific findings.

“In my forthcoming book, Why Science and Faith Need Each Other: Eight Shared Values That Move Us Beyond Fear, I show that 34% of evangelical Protestants and about 17% of all Americans say they would consult their religious leader with a question about science, especially science that seems to have moral implications.”

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