Religious leaders ponder reopening plans as communities ease lockdown restrictions
A global community divided by barriers both physical and cultural face a common enemy in the fight against COVID-19 and as countries begin to ease lockdown restrictions, religious leaders of all faiths struggle to come up with safe yet productive ways to serve their communities.
Throughout the health crisis and subsequent financial crisis, many worshipers have turned to faith for support. In anticipation of this, religious leaders have set up online services that allow members of churches, mosques, and temples to watch sermons from home. For the past two months, the results have been successful.
One study performed by CDF Capital found that online church attendance during the pandemic was slightly higher than regular attendance in person.
“People in general, I think, are looking for more meaning and spirituality in the midst of all this,” Omar Suleiman, an Islamic leader in Irving, Texas, told the Associated Press.
Suleiman is the leader of Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and he's been uploading religious services via YouTube.
“So I think there’s just a general increase in religiosity and consumption of religious content,” he said.
But many leaders are also wondering how to proceed now that lockdown restrictions are easing despite the continued presence of COVID-19.
Louisiana officials plan to begin a gradual reopening of daily services and activities on May 16. The decision comes as the state sees a decrease in he number of residents hospitalized with COVID-19. On Wednesday, that number dropped below 1,200 on Wednesday. That said, the number of virus cases and related deaths continues to climb.
That's why churches, though allowed to resume in-person services, must adapt to a 25% occupancy limit.
In harmony with the new regulations, places of worship like St. Thomas More will allow a maximum of 200 people in the building at once. This means many church leaders will implement sign-ups and online registration for those who want to attend services.
At St. Thomas More, sign-ups come with special guidelines. Each parishioner, for example, has can only sign up for a certain number of services every two weeks. This way, every parishioner will have the opportunity to attend in-person services.
In addition to this, the church will use tape and other means to keep congregants physically distanced while attending services.
Across the globe, similar measures are being taken by leaders who hope to keep their communities 'spiritually fed' but safe throughout the remainder of the pandemic.