How religious organizations address social distancing

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The outbreak of the novel coronavirus COV­ID-19 changed life as people know it. In the wake of the outbreak, hundreds of millions of people across the globe were forced to change how they work, how they spend their free time and even how they eat their meals as social distancing mea­sures were enacted in an effort to stop the spread of a virus that, by late-March 2020, had already claimed the lives of thousands of people.

Seemingly no aspect of life was unaffected by social distancing measures, including how people celebrate their faith. To prevent the spread of CO­VID-19, many religious organizations were forced to reconsider how they interact with their con­gregants. For example, in recognition of changes within the religious realm prompted by the CO­VID-19 outbreak, the United Synagogue of Con­servative Judaism provided a free list of tools and resources (www.uscj.org/synagogue-resources) to help synagogues operate more effectively. Simi­larly, in accordance with an executive order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo limiting so­cial gatherings, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany canceled all public liturgies, but also an­nounced measures to livestream Masses and even provided a schedule of those masses through its website (www.rcda.org/livemass).

Livestream religious services allow people of faith to continue to celebrate their faith. Such services also provide access to non-members who might nonetheless be looking for guidance during a time that is unlike any many people alive today have ever experienced. The uplifting messages of­fered at religious services can help people confront and overcome feelings like depression and anxiety, which the American Psychological Association notes researchers have linked to social distancing. Being part of a community, even if that community is operating exclusively online, can provide a lift to those struggling with the potentially isolating consequences of social distancing.

People interested in engaging in faith-based services and programs while social distancing are urged to contact a local religious organization to see how it is providing spiritual guidance during this unique time.

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