Impact of COVID-19 and vaccinations on Communities of Faith
Marijke Fakasiieiki, The Fig Tree's development director, surveyed rural congregations in the region and gathered stories for this summer issue on the impact of COVID and vaccinations on their ministries.
Zoom ordination led to innovative 'laying on of hands'
While COVID has brought many challenges for faith communities, St. Clare Ecumenical Catholic Communion's motto has been "be flexible," said Rose Mary Volbrecht, a co-pastor and emerita professor of philosophy at Gonzaga University.
"Moving to worship on Zoom has spurred some creative adjustments," she said.
Because singing together on Zoom "produces a cacophony of sound, we eliminated the usual opening song. Instead, we have begun each liturgy with a visual and musical meditation," she said.
Craig Abbs, a parishioner, produced many opening meditations that highlight the day's theme and prepare people for worship.
"These opening meditations have been so successful that we can't imagine not using them post-pandemic," she said.
In February, the communion ordained Rose Mary as a priest with only eight people besides the bishop and her present in person.
"Our custom is to have not only the bishop lay hands on the person being ordained, but also for all members of the congregation to give their blessing by laying hands on the person," she said. "With most of the congregation present on Zoom, this required some innovation.
"We asked each household in the community to choose a piece of cloth that had meaning for them, pray over it and mail it to the church. During the ordination ceremony, two members of the community laid the cloths on my shoulders as they read the names of those who sent the cloths," Rose Mary said. "It was a moving adaptation of laying on hands."
St. Clare's identified the need for connection as a high priority for members during the pandemic, so they organized Community Chats on Zoom, initially twice a week. In recent weeks, chats have been reduced to one a week.
"Community members welcome the opportunity to hang out on the 'church porch' each week, sharing stories and simply checking in on one another," she said.
"Nearly all adults in our community are now vaccinated, and we plan to begin meeting in person on June 13," she said. "We welcome the opportunity to share in person again, as well as to give and receive hugs, but we hope to remain flexible and welcome the Spirit to move us creatively in the future."
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, June, 2021