Faith communities hit hard by virus
In times of crisis, pews tend to become more crowded in places of worship, at least for a while. We saw this after the 9/11 attacks. According to some estimates, half of the U.S. adult population attended a religious service on the Sunday following that terrible day in 2001.
The same option, however, is becoming less and less available with the COVID-19 outbreak because churches are closing their doors.
Last week, many United Methodist churches in Oklahoma, at the request of the domination’s state leader, decided to suspend in-person worship temporarily. The same day, the archbishop of Oklahoma City ordered all Catholic churches in the diocese — 107 parishes with roughly 120,000 parishioners across the western two-thirds of Oklahoma — to suspend all public Masses and liturgies through Easter.
The latter is unprecedented in the diocese’s 115-year history. But then, given the continued spread of COVID-19 and recommendations by health officials that gatherings be limited to 10 people, other options weren’t viable.
“I know this will be difficult for many of us …” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley said in his announcement. But, “we must take further steps to protect the community and our most at-risk parishioners, so everyone can remain safe during this health crisis.”
Many faith groups in Oklahoma had already canceled in-person worship services and livestreamed services instead. This trend is sure to continue as the state, and the country, wrestle with the coronavirus.
These are difficult, unsettling times. Gov. Kevin Stitt noted during a news conference last week that Oklahomans “are hurting, they’re anxious and fearful about the future, but … we will get through this.” He’s right.
Perhaps this prayer, making its rounds on social media, will help with that effort:
“May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
“May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.
“May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
“May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
“May we who have to cancel our trips remember those who have no place to go.
“May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.
“May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.
“During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.