As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world are changing their routines to fit within social distancing guidelines. Religions across the globe have also adjusted to stay connected with their congregations without meeting in person. For some religions, providing services during the Easter holiday pushed them to adapt more than ever, while for others, changes have been taking place since quarantine became commonplace. Strategies used by different religious groups have been extremely varied and creative. Here are five particularly interesting adjustments.
1. Drive-Through Service
Churches scattered across the world have started offering services in a drive-through style. This approach varies slightly from place to place and across different denominations. Notable instances include drive-through confessionals set up in the parking lots of Catholic churches and services that operate similarly to a drive-in movie in South Korea. These distant services make an attempt to maintain a sense of gathering while keeping members safely separated in their own vehicles, sometimes allowing them to tune in to services through their car radio.
2. Walk-Through Service
Some churches and religious gatherings are pushing the limits of social distancing by continuing to meet in allegedly less socially dense ways. Walk-through services that allow only a few people to enter the church at a time were used in parts of the United States for Easter services. In Pakistan, circles were drawn on the ground to separate worshippers in one Christian gathering. Similar examples can be found across the world and its faiths as people attempt to gather while keeping space between family units. Critics of this practice claim it is ineffective at keeping worshippers safe, while participants argue that it allows them to continue the practices and traditions that are important to them.
3. Remote Preaching
While switching to church services that are offered via online video chat may seem like a no-brainer, some religious groups have taken especially creative approaches to remote preaching. One priest in Austria has taken the time to place hundreds of photographs of worshipers to fill the pews of his church during Mass. Church services online have arguably been one of the more effective solutions to the risk of gathering, though a large roadblock is some worshippers' lack of access to the technology to enable them to participate.
4. Worship Away From Holy Sites
Thousands of sacred sites and places of worship have been forced to close their doors. One monumental example is the closing of the sacred Kaaba in Israel. Being without their special places of gathering has led to all manner of religious leaders and worshipers suiting up with face masks and other safety gear and continuing worship in their own small groups or in public. For example, instead of worshipping in temples, Buddhist monks in Thailand took to the streets wearing facial protection.
5. Aid for Those in Need
Perhaps the most inspiring action during the pandemic is the amount of work different religions worldwide have put into helping others. From raising money to making face masks, giving aid to those in need has helped many churches stay together in a shared desire to do good. While the novel coronavirus has created challenges and rattled the confidence of many believers, faiths of all kinds are still holding onto their values. Even in cases where meeting for services is not possible, many believers have made an effort to spread a message of hope, encouraging faith in these unusual times.
While it can be argued that some approaches are more responsible than others for protecting the health of the public, the adaptability shown by religions during the pandemic can be impressive. Many religions that haven't changed their approach in decades are making a shift to better serve their members while keeping them and the wider world safe from the virus.