Pandemic or no pandemic, many places of worship say technology is here to stay – CBC.ca

Posted By on August 23, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold across the globe, emptyingplaces of worship, streaming services came to the rescue for many.

Online streaming served as a lifeline for some people of faith, aspublic health ordersforced places of worship to limit attendance or close entirely.

In light of that, some set up new video camera systems to live stream their services to congregants, or turned to meeting services like Zoom to worship together or evenconnect with othersaround the world.

And while the province has now lifted all of its pandemic restrictions, meaning there are no legallyenforced limits on the number of people allowed to gather, the technology appears to behere to stay.

Some Saskatchewan places of worshipsay that while there was a learning curve, the experience has taught them things they can carry into the future.

While all stressed their preference will always be for in-person gatherings, here'showthey plan to use thetech to help them practice their faithpost-pandemic.

First Baptist Church in Regina not only started streaming its service, but also found a way to include those watching from home.

During services, a Zoom meeting with congregants at home is projected in the church, allowing in-person attendees to see their fellow worshippers.

It looked similar to when sports games broadcastthe gallery view of fans watching, jokedRev. Joel Russell-MacLean.

Before COVID-19, "we hadn't yet made that leap to using streaming services," he said. "But the pandemic forced our hand and it's been pretty rewarding."

Members at home also lead parts of the service such as prayers or scripture readings via Zoom.

The platform also allowed members to connect with a fellow congregant who was terminally ill, and share the last few months of his life with him.

"That was a beautiful and special moment for many of us," saidRussell-MacLean.

"We hadn't been able to pray and worship with them [him and his wife] as a group for years, and COVID forced us into a place where we were using a technology that actually allowed that."

The church plans to continue to stream its services to allow members to pray together and strengthen community relationships.

The pandemic opened the world to virtual connection for a Regina Jewish congregation.

When the pandemic began, Rabbi Avrohom SimmondsofChabad Jewish Centre of Regina had no idea what Zoom was.

Now,his community is using the video communication platform that took off during the pandemicto host guest speakers from around the world.

Before, he said, getting a guest speaker from abroad would involve flying them into Regina.

"We've done that a few times, but of course it's very costly to do that.Now [Zoom] allowed us to tap into a much larger resource," he said.

Chabad Jewish Centrealso started offering virtual Torah classes. While in-person classes have recently resumed, they'll also continue tobe streamed online for members who can't attend.

Simmonds said community members are excited about having virtual access when they can't come in person.

The experience has beena reminder to think outside the box about howto engage with members who may be feeling isolated, he said.

"It makes me feelgreat knowing there is thisadditional resource I never even thought of before."

The Sikh Society of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon set up a two-camera video system inside their gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship.

The service is live streamed to other community members via YouTube and Facebook. A community member controls the cameras remotely from elsewhere in the building to avoid disrupting the service a key consideration in setting up the system.

Setting up the system wasn'teasy changes had to be made to the gurdwara's wiring system anda better internet provider was needed.

"We went through a plethora of changes," said Jaswant Singh, a Sikh Society of Saskatchewan member.

But it was worth it, saidAmritpalDhaliwal, the general secretary of the Sikh Society of Saskatchewan.

The gurdwara is currently too small to accommodate the entire community, butstreaming the services allows more people to take part.

"It makes me feel very good that people can watch from their homes,"Dhaliwalsaid.

With COVID-19 case numbers related tothe highly contagious delta coronavirus variant rising in the province, all of the religious organizations CBC talked to saidthey are ready to make changes if needed.

They mentioned options such as reinstating mask requirements, reintroducing restrictions or even shutting down again as possible adaptations tochanging situations.

But the newfound technology shows the pandemic has also been a springboard for improvement, saysRabbi Simmonds.

"Every time there's a challenge, it's either a nuisance in the way that we wish never happened or we can look at it and see this is an opportunity," he said.

"This challenge is not just a setback, but there's opportunities for growth going forward."

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Pandemic or no pandemic, many places of worship say technology is here to stay - CBC.ca

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