Spiritual Care in the Pandemic
Religious leaders often serve their faith assemblies through in person-worship, counseling, and community events. With the pandemic causing lockdowns and mandated stay at home orders, conventional ways of worship were upended. Faith leaders devised innovative solutions to bringing community together, preserving spiritual practices, and providing safe spaces in this difficult time.
Many spiritual leaders began counseling sessions via Zoom and planning outdoor in-person meetings, paying particular attention to elders of the community who were the most vulnerable members of society during the pandemic. These religious leaders spearheaded food drive-thrus and computer centers. They prayed outside hospitals and delivered essential goods. Most importantly, they reminded communities of the power in their resilience.
This collection includes an array of spiritual leaders’ voices and their experiences guiding communities through the pandemic. Pastor Marialena Cristerna’s church in the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas opened church centers for students to access computers for virtual school.
She also assisted different neighborhoods on the Mexican side of the border in Piedras Negras, where many are going hungry during the pandemic. For the children, she made sure to include something extra special — cookies or candies nestled among the groceries delivered.
Religious leaders not only provided resources to their communities, but transformed worship, from what people have always known to newer, more creative methods. Leaders like Dr. Neil Thomas, pastor of Cathedral of Hope had to reframe their approach to preaching entirely. He reminded his congregation of the fundamentals of their faith, with or without physically attending church. He shares his experience of navigating preaching virtually. While pre-recorded sessions make it difficult to gauge where the congregation is spiritually, the ultimate goal of worship, connection and engagement remains. He says that without the performance aspect physical preaching can come with, he can better connect with his congregation.
How Community and Rituals Changed in 2020
Religion structures social life in many ways, such as community gatherings and holidays. The pandemic caused many aspects of our social lives to shift. People could no longer attend in person worship services and hug one another. Weddings and funerals were now conducted on Zoom. This past year has changed the way communities interact with one another and the ways in which they practice customs and traditions. Congregations endured outdoor worship in the sweltering Texas heat. Rabbis logged on to youtube to start live streams of their worship. Mosques held khutbas on Facebook live. Through it all, people found new ways to continue worship and connect with one another.
In this collection, we hear stories of new ways of worship and practices through the eyes of religious leaders. Pastor Brent Hampton shares the experience of transitioning services online and the difference between in-person and virtual worship.
We also hear an account from a spiritual assembly member of Baha'i Faith-Austin, Nabil Yazdani. He shares the ways his community has come together, despite being unable to gather in person. Their Compassion Fund, serving those in need during the pandemic was traditionally funded through in-person services. With the Baha'i center closed, this donation service transitioned online and contributions continued pouring in.