Lockdown forces churches to hold services online

Published 18 April 2020  |  
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The coronavirus lockdown has forced churches and parishes across the world to hold services online.

Few days earlier, on Easter Sunday, Pope Francis also live-streamed ceremonies from the Vatican without the gathering of people.

Many followers were saddened by their inability to attend church masses during Easter and partake in Eucharist, a Christian ceremony in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed.

In India, for believers to stay connected to churches, a team at the Archdiocese of Calcutta started broadcasting services on March 22, even before the nationwide lockdown was announced.

In an interview with The Indian Express, Archbishop of Calcutta, Thomas D'Souza said, "When the lockdown was declared, we discussed what we could do for our people. We have some talented people working on our website and they came up with the idea of the live-stream."

According to the archbishop, around 11,000 believers, including a few users from overseas, tuned in to watch services during Holy Week.

"The Holy Week services have to be done by an ordained priest or bishop. People cannot do it themselves. That is why we are participating in the online services held by the Archbishop," said Dolly Jacques, a 60-year-old resident from Shibpur, West Bengal.

For religious like Josephine Gurung, the lockdown has prevented her from visiting the church whenever she wants. "It is very painful to sit in the house and pray while the Holy Week is going on. It is a week where we only pray, pray and pray," the 58-year-old said. "I dress up at home just like I would if I were going to church. No sitting around in night-clothes while I listen to the Archbishop online."

For 24-year-old Efi Biswas, this year's Holy Week was more meaningful. He said it was "more about spirituality and family, than about who is wearing what clothes to church."

"Usually church visits are less about Christ and more about meeting people. But this year, it is about Christ and not us. If you are spiritually strong, then whether you go to church or not does not matter."

Biswas, who is the youth president of the Mother Teresa's Church in Mathkal, told The Indian Express that "Usually we have to plead to people to contribute articles for our Facebook page on their reflections during the Holy Week. But this year, many young people didn't have anything to do during the lockdown so they contributed many articles on their own for our church."

Archbishop D'Souza encouraged Christians to look at the lockdown from a different perspective. "People may not have found time for their families, so this has been a blessing in disguise where they can be together," he said. "Faith is still alive and that is why we are encouraging them to follow the live-streaming."

Across the country, churches and parishes are broadcasting services using live-streaming platforms as they are unable to gather together. Though many may not agree with online services, for believers like Biswas, "more than going to church, it is about your relationship with God."

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