Religious institutions across the state are choosing to transfer their services remotely in response to forced closures due to the ever-present COVID-19 threat in New Mexico.
Just as educational institutions and workplaces begin to take advantage of online platforms such as Zoom and Discord, so too are churches transmitting live streams of worship, youth group classes, rosary sessions, and more.
In addition to posting existing regularly scheduled services online, Calvary Church, which has four campuses in New Mexico, developed a quarantine-specific schedule that features diverse worship opportunities each hour. These range from youth hours to a biblical quarantine playlist during lunch to inspirational live talks.
Pastor Matt Pirolo, who leads the creative and production teams at Calvary, said he chose to transfer his church’s services online rather than temporarily forego them. He said that he believes now more than ever, humanity is in need of faith and hope.
“Since beginning our online services, over 20 people have made decisions to follow Jesus for the very first time,” Pirolo said. “We have a huge responsibility to be a light in the darkness during this time. It is really a dark season for the nation and for the world.”
Furthermore, Calvary will be transforming its Osuna campus into a drive-in theater for two live services on Easter Sunday at 9:00 and 11:30 am. During these services, messages of worship will be relayed by religious leaders from an elevated stage in the center of the parking lot, which will be broadcast by two screens facing the north and south side of the lot.
Though the event is free of charge, tickets must be acquired online ahead of time in order to not overcrowd the 1000 available parking spots. To respect state-mandated COVID-19 guidelines, viewers will be required to remain in their respective vehicles during the service.
“We have to be physically separated, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk together and pray together and encourage each other,” Pirolo said.
The Albuquerque Insight Meditation Center (AIMC), a community that practices and learns from the teachings of the Buddha, has also been offering its practices remotely. Biweekly meditation sits and dharma talks — reflections on the teachings of the Buddha —are being conducted via Zoom alongside other meetings listed on AIMC’s website.
Osa Arkin, a retired nurse-midwife and retreat organizer for eight years at AIMC, said the online transition has been well-received, averaging 20 to 40 practitioners for every event and 30 new signups for AIMC’s email list in the past three weeks.
“People were so glad to be given continued access to the refuge of sitting in community,” Arkin said. “Many dharma communities across the country have gone to online format, with many offerings on how this practice helps us live with the stresses of COVID.”
Arkin also said that the practice of dharma inherently draws individuals who are experiencing suffering in their lives; therefore, the importance of such a practice being continued during this time of universal stress cannot be understated.
“They learn cultivation of attributes such as non-harming, compassion, gratitude, generosity, loving kindness and equanimity so they are better able to embrace difficulty and be adaptable,” Arkin said. “It is supportive to practice in the context of a community which shares these values, especially in these times which combine impermanence with physical isolation.”
Similarly the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), a Catholic parish in Los Alamos, has been featuring live streams of daily masses on its YoutTube channel and website. They also stream Bible studies, daily morning rosaries, and reflections on scripture.
Additionally, youth parishioners who had been previously arranging for first communion or confirmation are holding religious education meetings on Zoom so they do not fall behind in their preparation.
Father John Daniel, the priest at IHM, said he has been working closely with his staff to determine how best to reach and support the parish during this time of isolation. He said the transition was successful yet limited, because it relies on the parishioners’ accessibility and comfort level with technology. However, he said he believes the church’s efforts to be worth the potential hiccups along the way.
“Upon prayerful reflection, we realized we are providing a vital opportunity to continue to grow in faith,” he said. “Finding ways to reach out is so important. We need prayer more rather than less now and we need to be there for each other.”
Daniel also said he considers this mandated isolation as an opportunity to strengthen one’s own faith as well as solidify his or her community relations.
“This is a chance to grow in individual but most importantly community faith,” he said. “Now more than ever, we must communicate in a loving way.”
Beatrice Nisoli is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli