Religious Groups Adapt To Social Distancing

Apr 2, 2020

Duke University Chapel
Credit Bill Snead / Duke University

Under the governor's statewide stay-at-home order, religious entities are considered essential, but gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.

As a result, many places of worship are now live streaming their services online.
Duke University Rabbi Elana Friedman says that so far, her student congregants seem to like it.

"There's some excitement to being able to join a service in your pajamas and have your pets with you," she said. "There's some time efficiency that some people have noted that has been helpful."

Other faith leaders at Duke are also advocating the use of video chat apps, like Zoom or Facetime, for reaching people who would typically attend worship services in person.

"At the heart of our life together is the calling to love one another with a self-sacrificial love, which in this moment surely means being willing to do the hard work of being physically distant but socially and spiritually connected with one another," said the Rev. Bruce Puckett, assistant dean of Duke University Chapel.

As time drags on, however, Friedman acknowledged it will become more difficult to avoid human contact, especially during major celebrations. Passover, the major Jewish holiday, will begin sundown on April 8, and is a holiday in which Jewish people typically gather in large groups and welcome those from outside the faith.

"This is incredibly difficult for many people. It's against the spirit of Passover. The spirit of Passover is to welcome family and friends around the table to celebrate. It's one of the most popular holidays for American Jews," said Friedman, adding that this year, people will have to adapt. "Saving a life is more important than any other Jewish law or custom. So we're required to safeguard health and care for one of others, and therefore disregard laws if they conflict with preserving a life. With that in mind, we have to adhere to recommendations from health experts and local governments and stay home. That includes for the Passover Seder."