COVID-19’s Impact on Organized Religion

This time is particularly difficult for everyone, regardless of what religion you practice. The cancellation of school, events, and work affect everyday life. Many people look towards religion in difficult times, but with the complications that COVID-19 brings, practicing religion in its traditional format is no longer an option. 

Before understanding the level of danger this pandemic presented, places of worship continued with their practices. This led to momentous consequences, such as the spreading of the disease through social gatherings, communion, etc. After thoughtful consideration, many religious authorities closed or limited religious gatherings. So, how does religion continue when it poses a direct threat to public health?

For the Roman Catholic Church, the answer was online services. Through live streaming they were able to offer accessible mass and Sunday services. In looking further than virtual services, religious leaders are finding new ways to accommodate for their practices, such as offering drive-through confessions.

Yet, religion is still hurting. Many Jewish celebrations of Purim were canceled by synagogues, and in Saudi Arabia, the cancellation of visas for Umrah, a religious pilgrimage for Muslims to Mecca, has affected the practice of Islam. Christianity is also being tested because spring is a vital time for denominations to practice lent, Easter, etc. Many Catholic communities hold fish fries on Fridays, an event that symbolizes togetherness but is no longer allowed due to social distancing. 

As organized religion is challenged, it also overcomes obstacles in the form of worldwide pandemics by utilizing technology that most people have access to. The Comparison Project is working to bring recognition to virtual services in the Des Moines community, and we hope to share our efforts soon!

Ella Stafford
First-Year Religions of Des Moines Student