The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we aren’t as invincible as we believe we are as a society. Whispers of the virus began circulating late last year and in early January of this year, and by March, the virus had already spread all over the world. Our economy, our infrastructure, our very lives were brought to their knees. It became abundantly clear that we simply couldn’t continue to gather in large groups, and that meant churches and other religious organisations also had to adopt new practices so as not to lose their members.
Many people look to their faith as a beacon of hope in such trying times, and without a place to gather, they’re losing the idea of the “flock”, where there’s strength in numbers and you’re supported by others with similar beliefs. Luckily for us, technology has bridged the gap, and communication even during a pandemic is as effective as ever.
Here’s how COVID-19 has helped religious organisations embrace technology. It comes down to survival in some cases, and organisations that choose not to adapt might not recover from the effects of COVID.
The Need To Social Distance
COVID-19 is spread via respiratory droplets from coughing, talking, and sneezing. This is why the practice of social distancing and wearing a mask has become crucial to our very survival. If we stay away from each other, cover up, and practice good hygiene, we can beat the virus.
Unfortunately, that means large gatherings can’t occur…and that includes religious gatherings. There is a heated debate among certain groups about the right to practice religion and ignore social distancing rules, but social distancing does work, and we need to put a stop to the spread of COVID-19.
When COVID reached its peak around March through late May, the entire country was forced to shut down. Unnecessary gatherings were banned, and only “essential” businesses were allowed to say open. Churches didn’t fall under this category, so they had two options: adapt to technology and host e-gatherings, or sink. Some churches didn’t survive.
The ones that did survive got video conferencing software, went online, and began hosting tele-sermons with great success. You’re still getting the feel and atmosphere of a religious gathering, but without being in the same room as hundreds or thousands of people.
It’s unlikely that social distancing rules will disappear anytime soon, especially with people still contracting the virus and being hospitalised for it. This means that religious organisations need to stay on track and keep embracing the shift toward remote worship, or else they may not see another tomorrow.
Prayer and spirituality apps have also seen an increase in their use in the wake of the COVID pandemic. People look to spiritual beliefs for comfort when things get stressful, and prayer apps are a great tool to remind you to say your prayers, meditate, or practice gratitude.
You can get custom notifications, reminders, and more with a prayer app. There are also things like a bible story app that can provide you with great bible stories any time of the day, or a mindfulness app that helps remind you to be mindful of what’s going on around you and how you’re reacting to it.
Using Social Media
Social media has also been a huge advantageous tool for religious institutions. Social media connects people across faiths, geographical distances, and walks of life, and allows for people of similar beliefs to come together in a totally customisable online space. Facebook groups, for example, help congregations gather online in a private group with messaging and moderation capabilities.
Religious institutions have been forced to at least try social media during the COVID age, simply because we’re still not allowed to gather in large groups. Will they remain on social media afterward? Will it be enough to save the sinking institutions whose budgets have been stretched to the max? Perhaps, one day, we’ll find out—when we finally come together and beat this virus.
The Future of Worship
There’s a good chance that we’ll see much more e-worship in the future simply because it’s cheaper, safer, and allows for greater flexibility. Not everyone can actually make it to religious gatherings for health or transportation reasons. Remote gatherings allow everyone with an internet connection to participate, making them much more inclusive and versatile. What do you think the future of worship will look like for your organisation? Are you embracing the changes or resisting them?
Technology Is Changing
With new technology like VR on the horizon, there’s a good chance that worship, among other things, will change significantly in the near future. VR offers a unique opportunity to provide a fully immersive experience for just about anything—including worship. Imagine being able to attend church from the comfort of your home with a full 360-degree view! That’s something we’re looking forward to seeing.