By Cory L. Higgs
Church bells ringing, pews filled with devoted worshipers and altars of every faith filled with praise — these are a few things that many in the religious community are hoping to return to in the near future.
Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other buildings are community spaces where people come together and worship, but as the growing pandemic forces crowds to disband, what does that mean for the religious community?
Many houses of worship have gone virtual, live-streaming services via the internet connecting congregations from the safety of their own homes. Others have put other creative measures in place, like drive-thru communion, or in the case of Patrick Springs Pentecostal Holiness Church, a drive-in service where attendees remain in their cars but hear a sermon as a group.
In times like these, many turn to religion, but with the traditional means of worship all but banned due to limiting crowd size, that is proving difficult.
Meadows of Dan Baptist Church Pastor Shawn Carter has been busy creating content on Facebook and YouTube for his congregation to watch and he invites their input on sermons and topics they want to hear about.
“We met as a congregation for regular worship services at the church up till March 15. After the Governor of Virginia and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) said that no groups larger than 10 could gather, we have not met at the church, but have done online meetings and Bible study. I am planning to live stream my sermon and special singing from our church until the government releases quarantine restrictions,” Carter said.
He said he has been working with the older generations in his congregation, helping them get connected and online. Carter added that he is in the process of assisting the setup of social media accounts for some people so they can view and participate in his online services. He said that most of the people he has talked to are excited by the return to some normalcy the online worship services provide.
Carter said that although he has been working on his online presence for a few years, he has seen a surge recently due to self-isolation and quarantine mandates.
“There has been a huge increase in private messages and video counseling since the media coverage started talking about what was coming to the United States and what was happening in Italy. Lots of folks are asking for prayer and advice about jobs and family situations concerning the current shutdown,” he said.
Carter explained that religion plays a vital role in shaping and binding a people or community together, allowing them to take refuge and solace in one another.
The current events cut to the heart of the community, he said, “because it requires the community to stay at a distance.”
While the empty church pews collect dust, Carter said “the church is not the building. It’s the people, and when the people can’t come together for worship, we lose a sense of support and community.”
He is a firm believer that the online services will help maintain that community until the church reconvenes as a group.
“I do think it is important to do what the CDC recommends and take every step possible to keep self and others healthy. The Bible teaches that God gave humanity intellect and cognitive ability to make decisions concerning their own safety. I trust God in every way in my life, he leads me through the dangers by any means, so staying at home on Sundays will not impact my walk with Him,” he said.
Those interested in participating in Carter’s online services can tune into the Meadows of Dan Baptist Church’s Facebook page and catch up on services.
A Sunrise Service will be held at 6:45 a.m. on April 12, and Carter also hosts Bible studies on his personal account.
Other resources for live streams and content of every faith can be found online.