Coronavirus: Changing the way we worship


ROCHESTER & CLIFTON SPRINGS, NY (WROC) “This is going to change how we work,” says Linda Mehlenbacher with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, who joined News 8 over an app called “Zoom”. She says its a tool to keep the Catholic community together during Coronavirus pandemic. 

“This is allowing them to gather with their youth groups, gather with their confirmation classes,” says Mehlenbacher.

It’s also something they’re considering for broadcasting Catholic masses at their 86 churches across the diocese. “Zoom has a component that allows you to record what it is you’re doing and then you can save it and put it out there,” she says.

Like many priests across the region, Father Peter Van Lieshout with St. Felix in Clifton Springs, still says the daily Mass sans audience, but he’s also learning to connect with parishioners on the web.

“I was sort of forced to put out content via digital means,” says Fr. Van Lieshout.

He is also finding ways to connect with the community directly in the age of Covid-19. He’s still offering confessions, only now through a window on a porch using a makeshift set up, with plenty of sanitizer and screens for both protection and anonymity.

Fr. Van Lieshout’s makeshift confessional outside the St. Peter’s cluster parish office in Clifton Springs

“People especially now want to go to confession to make sure their soul is as prepared as possible for whatever comes,” says Fr. Van Lieshout.

“In a week’s time, all that interaction was gone,” says Tabssam Javid, President of the Islamic Center of Rochester. He says their main mosque is an empty house, but worship is already humming along online. 

“By the grace of Allah, we were able to find an alternative,” says Javid, adding their web-savvy Imam jumped on Facebook to deliver obligatory services. “He had about 300 to 350 people he thinks that logged in, and this is just starting yesterday (sic).”

Javid says additional worship, particularly the obligatory five times per day prayer for Muslims, can be done anywhere. Fr. Van Lieshout also says he encourages parishioners to find time to reflect and pray at home while his church doors are closed.

The Islamic Center in Rochester sits empty, but they’ve moved obligatory services online to Facebook

Post-coronavirus, religious leaders say some of the new tools they’re using, be it new face to face methods, or going digital, will be a part of religious life. “It’s not going to fall away. We’re going to see more and more of this,” says Mehlenbacher .

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