Coronavirus and the 4 Walls of Worship


“Mommy, are we going to
watch Mass today?” 

That’s what my 3-year-old son unexpectedly asked me on Sunday morning as I set up the laptop in the living room, waiting for Mass to go “live” on our parish’s Facebook page.

It dawned on me right then and there that even this little person was adjusting to the new coronavirus norm where the faithful “tune in” to church.

My son watching as Mass is livestreamed on Easter Sunday, April 12.

My son’s face still bears
a quizzical look each time we “watch” Mass. He seems to understand that
watching Mass, rather than gathering in church to celebrate the Mass, is very
different.

This social distancing has
put in sharp relief what many people of faith are desperate for: the peace that
lives within the four walls of worship. 

That’s not to take away
from the online tools that many congregations are so fortunate to have at their
fingertips. But some churches simply don’t have internet access. 

In my state of Virginia, Pastor Kevin Wilson of
Lighthouse Fellowship Church held a small, 16-person Palm Sunday service inside
the church building since many congregants lack internet access.

However, state policy
prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people, and those gathered must be spaced
at least 6 feet apart. Police in gloves and masks interrupted the service with
a threat of a $2,500 fee or jail time.

The church has filed a
federal lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam for violating its First Amendment
rights. 

Even some of those with a
high-speed internet connection are choosing the church parking lot as the next
best–and closest–thing to worshiping within the church’s four walls. Across
the country, pastors are holding drive-in services that allow the faithful to sit in
their parked cars outside the church as the sermon comes through the radio
dial. 

In San Francisco, Parris Khachi and Emily Manashi refused to let the coronavirus
lockdown ruin their long-awaited wedding. They took their vows in front of the
altar at St. Ignatius Church.

With just immediate family present, the couple’s walk down the aisle was live-streamed in real time for socially distanced guests. The church lined its pews with pictures of congregants for the ceremony–a welcome surprise for the wedding guests watching online.

The bride’s entrance holding her father’s hand, yesterday I was very lucky to be the photographer of this wedding in San…

Posted by Vicens Forns on Sunday, April 26, 2020

This longing to be within
the four walls of worship extends beyond the Christian faith. 

For the first time in American history, reportedly, not one synagogue was
open for worship. The Forward, an American-Jewish publication, notes that the
“urge to return [to synagogue] will be strong for many” once public health
concerns subside.

“At times of danger and
hardship, normally Jews come to synagogue,” Jonathan Sarna, a professor of
American Jewish history at Brandeis University, told The Forward.

Muslims also are distraught
over the closure of many mosques, especially during the prayerful holy month of
Ramadan.

“I keep thinking about all the times I could’ve gone to the mosque when it was open,” Imam Omar Suleiman said in a live-streamed sermon from his home in Dallas, Texas.

As a Catholic, being separated from the physical church has shown me just how much I need it. I think of those Sundays we made excuses for not attending–the kids’ nap schedules were off, we were traveling, our 1-year-old woke us up too early–and now wish only that I had that time back.

I regret putting off the
confessional, only to be indefinitely cut off from it. I regret my diminished
volunteerism at our church’s adoration chapel.

I know my eldest son
misses visiting the St. Agnes statue in the vestibule with Daddy and exchanging
“peace be with you” handshakes with those around us. 

It’s partly because of
this newfound gratitude that I find myself giving more through the online
offertory than I ever did in person. Of course, I’m also concerned about what
the church is facing now financially. 

Until we can open those church doors again, we’ll continue joining our fellow parishioners worshiping through Facebook Live every Sunday. And we’ll take solace in the outpouring of thanks, albeit in the comment section, for the wonderful clergy who celebrate Mass.





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