Faith leaders overcome pandemic obstacles

Calvin Interfaith Alliance hosted a Faith and Festivities event on how the pandemic has interrupted religious life. 

Religious leaders from around Michigan spoke about their response to COVID-19. In person were Pastor Matt Postma and Fred Stella, a Pracharak (outreach minister) at the West Michigan Hindu Temple. Rabbi Michael Schadick of Temple Emanuel and Petra Alsoofy from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding presented online. 

All four spoke on how COVID-19 has impacted religious holiday celebrations. Lockdowns affected everyone: Christians celebrated Easter in their homes, Jews spent Passover outside the synagogue, and Muslims broke fast from Ramadan separated from each other. 

The internet brought people together in worship from all over. Postma spoke of his YouTube live streams, and Stella mentioned the nearly 24/7 meditation live streams where Hindus around the world could participate. 

Alsoofy discussed drive through celebrations, allowing people to see others from their cars while handing out candy to the children of the community. Schadick and his congregation enjoyed using the online format for different events. All four used programs like Microsoft Teams or Zoom to continue to connect with their congregations; however, there were setbacks. 

Stella and Schadick agreed that after a time, the novelty of the internet grew old. After hours of online work or school, having to spend more time sitting in front of a screen became tiresome. Although the pandemic allowed people to access religious streams from across the world, Alsoofy and Schadick agreed that people missed what was familiar. 

As restrictions are lifted and vaccinations increase, they hope to return to in-person worship. One aspect of remote worship the speakers will miss is its relaxed nature. 

COVID-19 continues to impact everyone, but through it people of all religions recognize how much their faith communities have stood by them.