Almost all major religions have a day of the week when the followers congregate at their place of worship. They come in large numbers dressed in their best, happily greeting each other with smiles and hugs. Never have we ever thought what it would be like if suddenly that day ceased to exist (even temporarily). How do you keep the faith if your place of worship is closed?
On Thursday as COVID-19 cases grew, the Governor of Michigan declared all schools closed. Gatherings of over 100 people or more were to be suspended. Many places of worship began contemplating what would happen on their holiest day of the week.
Late Thursday night, Muslims received emails from their local mosques that their Friday afternoon prayer (Jummah) would not take place. It was surreal to read and bizarre to wake up on Friday and not feel that urgency to go to the mosque. On Friday, it happened to Muslims, and on Sunday, it would happen to our Christian brothers and sisters.
This week and for many coming weeks, places of worship will be closed due to COVID-19 fears. The discomfort of not going to that place where the heart yearns for comfort seems strange. When my son heard the announcement he asked, “Mom? Isn’t this supposed to be a time when we should all turn to God instead of keeping away from Him?” It brought me back to the thought, “how can we recharge our faith when the source has closed its doors?”
Many complex answers and defenses can rise with that question, as can the motivation for action. A call to action can be implemented to revive that same heart-lifting message our holy day brings, even if the places are closed.
Connect with Online Sources
Many places of worship offer online videos and feeds that will be keeping their message alive. Pastors, ministers, and imams will take their sermons online and convey their message of hope and faith to their congregants. Some may broadcast their message through a live feed or load a prerecorded video to their website or Facebook page. Check with your place of worship, either online or through their social media accounts. See what they are offering. These are excellent sources for keeping our faith strong when our places of worship have closed.
YouTube is also a great place to find sermons or lectures. You may find those who speak to a specific need or emotion you need guidance for. Yesterday, my children and I gathered around our TV. We heard a lecture from a famous imam about how to deal with Coronavirus fears. It inspired us to have a family discussion about holding on to our faith dearly in times of worry. This inspired us to let that strengthen us, instead of watching the news 24/7 and allowing the fear to consume us.
Connect with Gratitude
As change is being implemented all around us, worry can overshadow our hearts with ingratitude and impatience. The practice of gratitude allows your mind to not wonder in curiosity and fear. Rather, it allows your mind to take pause and reflect. Reflect on the good surrounding you (like having your family around you, food in your pantry and having enough toilet paper, etc.). Reflection that cultivates gratitude for the things you have now. Take reflection on things you overlooked before COVID-19. This gratitude can take over your mental space. Keeping faith strong through the practice of gratitude is possible, even if your place of worship is closed.
For me today, gratitude sounded like, “I am grateful for my place of worship. Grateful that I live in a country that allows me to practice my faith freely. Even more grateful that our place of worship will open on a Friday soon. I will hear the call to prayer again, and be able to offer my prayers.”
We intend to implement a Gratitude Journal Time for ourselves during this lockdown. A hope that my children can also learn to take a pause and reflect on all the good that is still around them. This practice of gratitude will allow them spiritual connect with their faith, and enlighten them, the way Friday prayers do.
Connect with Each Other
One of the highlights of going to church or mosque is meeting with family, friends, and neighbors regularly. It cultivates a sense of unity to gather under one roof praising God and reviving our faith together. With our places of worship being closed, it leaves an empty, unfulfilled space: a space that can be filled by the connection we make with others from the comfort of our home, and keeping our faith prevalent through that.
This can be a time that we connect with those who not only live close by, but with those we have put off connecting with. An aunt who lives several miles away might love a phone call. A cousin on the other side of the country would love the surprise of a handwritten letter. The new mom in your neighborhood would love a message asking how she’s doing under these current circumstances. Facetime-ing your grandparent might make them feel less isolated and lonely as they, too, ride out the lockdown indoors.
Though a place of worship strengthens our connection with each other and our faith, it does not restrict us from finding other means to do so. Technology has given us many ways of communicating. Practicing the importance of loving your neighbor can be done easily, even in lockdown, by using these means.
I will wake up this Sunday morning and glance at the eerily empty church parking lot behind my house. It will remind me of last week when I saw cars filing in steadily, as we ate Sunday breakfast together. The temporary closure of this, and other places of worship, remind me to value them for the need they fulfill every week. It will remind me of finding my faith through the words and religious scriptures they recite every week.
It is my hope that once COVID-19 begins to recede from our lives, our faith energizes us to hold on to these institutions more firmly than ever before. For, we will remember a time like today when we had to revive them in our hearts because their doors remained closed on a sunny Sunday morning.
Want more resources during this time of social distancing? Check here for how we can continue to support and love one another during this time.