The holiday season has arrived during what’s become the deadliest wave of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. With coronavirus deaths surpassing 300,000 and the coronavirus surge — and winter temperatures — forcing people indoors, some people are leaning on their faith and religion to help.
We asked three spiritual leaders in Chicago how their worshippers are faring.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood is conducting services both online and in person. However, the indoor services are limited in number to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. They are taking reservations for Christmas online now.
“We’re limited to a capacity of 80 people for social distancing,” said Michael Trail, associate pastor at the church. “We do an online reservation system through SignUpGenius.com and we just invite our parishioners to go online and sign up for one of those spots. It’s the same system that we’ve been doing all throughout.”
The Catholic parish has added more in-person services to accommodate parishioners and will livetream those services on Facebook. There will be three services on Christmas Eve, one on Christmas Day and one on Sunday, Dec. 27. The parish is also making a prerecorded Christmas service that people can watch anytime.
The Downtown Islamic Center in Chicago went remote when the phase three mitigations went into effect before Thanksgiving. Classes and sermons which are normally done together are now online.
“We miss communal worship and we miss reading scripture together, but we also miss socializing,” said Sheikh Ubaydullah Evans, who is one of the spiritual leaders at DIC.
But meeting online has been a lifeline to many.
“We do a little bit of both in that space,” Evans said. “We talk about faith, but we also socialize a bit and I think that people gain a great deal from it.”
Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann, who founded Mishkan Chicago in 2011, has been holding services remotely since the beginning of the pandemic. But members have found ways to connect via Facebook and Zoom, plus newer entries like podcasts and a book club.
“We started online book groups in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. We got together a bunch of anti-racism books and books about race specifically written by Black authors,” she said.
“We had like 150 people sign up over the space of a week for these book groups,” she said. “And some of those groups are still reading books now, like six months later. They’ve moved on to book three and book four.”
“I think that just speaks to the need that people have to connect with one another in ways that are like intellectually nourishing,” Heydemann said. “So, yes, spiritually nourishing, but also like using this time to learn and grow, to not feel like you’re stagnating.”