By Alex Ariker, Copy Editor
// Religion has historically offered an escape for those suffering in times of uncertainty and dread. However, as social distancing mandates force religious buildings to temporarily close, local religious communities must alter how they worship.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, the Church of Santa Maria in Orinda, and other local religious institutions now host online services through Zoom or other streaming platforms.
Instead of entire congregations meeting, online services only require the clergy to stream videos of themselves from home, allowing worship to continue during quarantine.
In addition to regular services, Temple Isaiah also offers morning spiritual check-ins over Zoom as a way of comforting their members during these uncertain times. In these meetings, members of the congregation are free to talk about how they are feeling and offer a prayer of healing.
“We do the prayer Mi Shebeirach, the prayer for healing, to be able to think of those in our community who need a prayer of healing,” Temple Isaiah Rabbi Alissa Miller said.
Online services are not the only alternative. The Church of Santa Maria offers a drive-in Mass to help establish a stronger sense of community.
“We had a service where we had 60 cars; it was really an amazing sight to see,” junior Drew Lashinsky said. “When the Easter mass ended, everyone started honking their horns; it was really cool to see the community come together there.”
Although drive-in masses and online services allow Acalanes High School students to continually practice their religion, some students found that the alternatives do not fully replicate in-person interactions.
“Not having the Eucharist or the communion is weird because it’s never happened to me. I prefer going to regular Mass and spending the hour there,” sophomore Johnathan Loyd said.
Some students who regularly attended religious meetings were unable to attend the alternative practices because of their previously changing school schedule.
“Some of the online meetings that my Temple holds conflict with Zoom meetings that I have for school, which is unfortunate,“ sophomore Kyra Ariker said.
However, not all religious students are affected by the shift to alternative practices. Some worship from home and others have no need to regularly attend their religious institution.
“I’ve practiced religion on my own for the last year, so I am able to continue practicing religion with my copy of the Bible from home,” freshman Zachary Robb said.
Muslim sophomore Aerik Kunju is another example of a student whose religious life is mainly unchanged. Kunju doesn’t typically go to his mosque to pray; instead, he prays from home. However, the month-long holiday of Ramadan, which started on April 23, changed normal Muslim life.
“We usually only go to the Mosque during Ramadan, but now that we can’t go there, we prayed at home and practiced all of the traditions at home,” Kunju said.
Despite the online alternatives, some politicians push to reopen religious institutions as states begin to reopen non-essential businesses. However, most religious services entail large groups of people gathering, creating a possible health concern.
Miller argues that there is no need to reopen religious institutions and that worshipers can effectively practice at home.
“Temple Isaiah and most religious institutions have all been open. We’ve just been online, but we’ve been providing the same services. We’ve been open, just not in our building,” Miller said.
Overall, alternative services present effective and beneficial solutions while the pandemic progresses.
“People really love the idea of [digital religion] and it gives them the ability to stay involved in the community,” Lashinsky said.
Categories: Online Exclusives