It is one of the greatest paradoxes of the COVID-19 crisis; how do we stay home and physically distance ourselves to slow the spread of the virus, yet still stay connected to our family, friends and community?
For members of faith-based organizations, the closing of houses of worship and the cancellation of religious gatherings during the recent Easter and Passover holidays left many with a sense of spiritual dislocation. One of the most powerful images to capture this new reality was the photo of Pope Francis offering a blessing in an empty St. Peter’s Square.
For congregations across Los Angeles, faith-based organizations share a core mission to bring their congregants together, physically, to worship and to minister to those in need. In many communities, they also play a vital role in the care of their elderly members, something that has become more difficult for those over 65 who are at higher risk of developing serious illness from the coronavirus.
Despite the many adjustments and sacrifices faith-based organizations have had to make since the Safer at Home ordinance went into effect in Los Angeles, many of them have found meaningful and innovative ways to stay connected to their members and to serve those who may need them now more than ever.
So as friends, families and neighbors have taken to Zoom and other virtual platforms to share conversations, meals, and games, many faith-based organizations are using virtual ministry as well to provide spiritual support, guidance and a place to share fears and questions.
For example, many churches, such as Shepard Church in Woodland Hills, hold online services three times each weekend. They also have a Shepard Kids Program that allows young children to do church-based activities at home.
Other congregations provide content online, such as past sermons and concerts that can be accessed anytime. For those that have not mastered Zoom or other live platforms, some use Facebook Live or Instagram Live to hold conversations and services. Oasis Church in Los Angeles streams Sunday and mid-week services from their website and Facebook. Their pastors often jump on Instagram to share daily words of encouragement and inspiration.
And to reach those congregants who may not have online access, leaders are spending hours on the phone checking in with their congregants. Some have started “fireside chats” where members can ask questions and join in conversations via phone or video.
Others have started regular conference calls to share words of encouragement, and other messages throughout the week. Although not the same as the fellowship of joining together physically, for some, especially the elderly, joining a conference call with their faith leader from the safety of their home, can be a welcome break in the day. Calvary Baptist Church in Pacoima has a very engaged senior membership. Since the pandemic, they have been using a conference call line to broadcast their Sunday worship services. In addition, a conference call line is used for mid-week services and daily prayer meetings.
And in some cases, faith leaders are knocking on people’s doors to make sure they are safe. All while wearing a mask and standing far from the door.
Thank you to the many faith leaders throughout Los Angeles that are working to find creative and meaningful ways to serve their communities. We also thank you for being in conversation with the City of Los Angeles and Mayor Garcetti as we work together to find the best ways to provide the spiritual connection so many in our communities need.
We are in this together and we will get through this together too.