From the beginning of century, religions especially the three leading ones had been able to survive perilous times in the history of the world after facing plagues, famines, pestilence and even wars, now in the 21st century, it’s biggest threat to surviving is the global pandemic which had thrown the entire world into panic and complete shutdown but maybe we shouldn’t all give up just yet as technology is the newest medium by which people communicate.
The New York-area Jewish, Islamic and Christian clerics are turning to technology to help their followers through the coronavirus. Worshipers have now taken to the internet in their millions to stay connected amid the uncertain threat the disease pose to humanity as self-isolation measures are being placed on society at large. But this new development according to clerics has helped in strengthening the faith and spirituality of worshipers.
“I think from a spiritual standpoint, it’s very empowering,” said Sheikh Osamah Salhia, Imam at the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Clifton, New Jersey. “The government-ordered shutdowns have been a chance for us to recognize our real priorities in life and gain a sense of clarity on what really matters: family, community, the masjid (mosque) and its role,” he said in an interview.
While partial reopening of some parts of the country is already begun, mass gathering is still not allowed which has taken away communal aspects of prayers especially during this period of the Muslim fasting month of the Ramadan where, the Islamic Center is connecting online with congregants for classes and Koran readings, Salhia said. Livestream prayers, however, are not encouraged, he said, adding families should pray together at home.
Many Jews including the Esther Greenberg of New York’s Long Island gathered their families for the Passover ceremony on Zoom.
“Unfortunately, we all can’t be together holding each other around, giving hugs and kisses, but we’re doing it virtually because this is what our family does,” Greenberg, 73, said at her April 8 seder. At the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, many of the sanctuary’s mostly older congregants have been connecting via the internet for the first time, Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky said.
“Technology has been amazing,” said Rogosnitzky. “It really is a lifeline. The world is now being sent online as congregants utilizes different platforms to link not only to morning services but also to a supportive community that has grown more spiritual during the crisis according to Rogosnitzky
After the lockdown, he said he envisions smaller, shorter gatherings, with barriers in the sanctuary and temperature-takers greeting worshipers. “It’s going to be more about, stay separate,” he said.
Unlike polls which showed declines in virtual religious attendance since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan has increased in it’s number of online worshippers for its Episcopal Services according to the Rev. Patrick Malloy.
“One of the great things that’s happening on Sundays is we have people from all over the world, and thousands of them sharing of worship with us every Sunday,” said Malloy. “For the first time, I heard a confession by Skype,” he added. “You know, you have to do what you have to do.”
Like other clerics, Malloy says he has seen more spirituality in the flock during the pandemic.
“When you’re locked in your house, and especially when you’re locked in a small New York apartment by yourself, day after day after day, you come to think about the bigger questions,” he said.
When the crisis ends, Malloy said he expects to see the church at least as full as it was before because “people really do miss one another.”