Clergy Get Creative In Attempts To Engage Youth During Pandemic – Public Radio Tulsa

Posted By on August 16, 2020

The Rev. Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, has a "10,000-foot view" of the various Christian denominations that make up her organization, and that clergy of all stripes agree on one thing.

"I can say unequivocally: They did not teach us how to pastor during a pandemic in seminary," Fleck said, on a virtual panel discussion with religious leaders from various faiths organized by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.

"That was not covered. I did not have that class," Fleck said.

Rabbi Abby Jacobson, president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma and faith leader of Oklahoma City's Emanuel Synagogue, said the summer months are especially important for youth programming in her faith.

"Developmentally, as Jewish adults and as Jewish leaders, summer camp is always very important. All Jewish summer camps were canceled this year," Jacobson said.

Jacobson said synagogue and camp leaders were trying their best to engage students and families virtually, but that comes with challenges, especially with younger children.

"They're kids, they're four-year-olds," Jacobson said. "You give them Mommy's cell phone and they're like, 'Push buttons! Push buttons!' and they're not actually listening. So we do what we can with that."

Pastor Eddie Coast of Trinity Baptist Church said youth programming in his faith community is also challenging.

"It's not just Baptists -- it's all groups that have pretty well canceled all their camps for the summer," Coast said. "Some of the churches that used to run 25,000 to 2,500 have had to really change how they do work."

Imam Imad Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City said prayer in Islam is traditionally not at all distanced in the way the pandemic calls for.

"We emphasize the idea of 'shoulder-to-shoulder, foot-to-foot,'" Enchassi said. "The closer the person to the other person, the more virtuous."

"When this information came out to us about the nature of the virus, we decided that our congregation would be at highest risk," Enchassi said.

At his mosque, Enchassi said that necessary community service work that has continued over the course of the COVID-19 panemic has given youth a distraction.

"Our food pantry is one of the food pantries that did not close," Enchassi said. "We stayed through the whole pandemic, and some of the youth actually came and put that energy to use."

The imam said he understands the frustration of his congregation, but that Quranic verses support making exceptions to rules for prayer during times of plague.

"I always tell people: Mecca's closed," Enchassi said.

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Clergy Get Creative In Attempts To Engage Youth During Pandemic - Public Radio Tulsa

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