Grace and remembrance – Arkansas Online

Posted By on August 8, 2020

In the Jacobs home, Shabbat has become synonymous with two things: Facebook Live and Shira Averbuch, the ukulele-playing, golden-voiced singer who serves as the artist-in-residence at B'nai Jeshurun, a nearly 200-year-old synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

"Shabbat Shalom!" she begins, warmly greeting each of the children listening from home. "I'm so happy you're all here. Should we start getting ready for Shabbat? What do you think?"

Avery Jacobs, 3, often sings along to the "Bim Bam" song in her family's Manhattan apartment or in the patio of her grandparents' home on Long Island. When Averbuch tells the kids that she's feeling "that Shabbat feeling" in her heart, their parents respond in the comments: They feel it in their head. Their hair. "Avery feels it in her feet!" writes Lindsay Jacobs, 33, Avery's mother.

Weeks later, she said, "Seeing Shira's face has been the one piece of comfort we've had through this whole thing."

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Shabbat, the seventh day of rest in the Jewish tradition, is a time of joy, relaxation and worship. Likewise, Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of the sacrifice held at the end of July, is a celebration. And on Sundays, Christians gather to pray, sing and receive sacraments.

AS THEY USUALLY DO

But none of those rituals have played out as they usually do.

One of the cruelties of the coronavirus is that it has led places of worship to not only strip away in-person religious traditions, but also modify or eliminate community gatherings all at a time when the faithful -- still reeling from the effects of an unrelenting pandemic -- need them most.

For families with young children, this presents an especially big challenge: Without in-person religious education or volunteer activities, how do parents keep kids engaged in their religion? How can a family "love thy neighbor as thyself" in a world where close social interaction is discouraged?

Carrie Willard, 42, an administrator at Rice University in Houston, said that for her two boys, 12 and 9, the "big-C challenge" is the ability to see God in other people rather than casting judgment because they aren't making the same choices. But what she and many other families continue to grieve is the loss of their in-person community, especially during the holidays.

"Easter was this weird but not terrible thing," Willard said. Their church was closed, so her family lit a fire pit in their yard and her husband, who is the rector at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, read a sermon.

"It was really lovely," she said. "And I think that's what we'll remember, I hope."

Willard's family and others are finding new ways to express their faith and imbue their children with notions of grace and giving, even if the circumstances aren't ideal.

"Nothing can fully take the place of the communal face-to-face gatherings of religious communities," said Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, an epidemiologist and co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion and Spirituality at Harvard University. VanderWeele and his colleagues have examined how religious upbringing and religious service attendance can shape the lives of adolescents. Their 2018 study found that among the adolescents studied, attending religious services at least once a week was associated with greater life satisfaction, lower probabilities of marijuana use, greater frequency of volunteering and fewer lifetime sexual partners.

A MORAL FOUNDATION

In-person services are also meaningful for parents. A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that of those U.S. adults surveyed who attended church at least once a month, two-thirds said they did so to give their children a moral foundation, to become better people, and for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow.

Asma Uddin, 40, an author and religious liberty lawyer, said having community events, such as celebrating Eid together or attending Muslim summer camp, "gives you a sense that there are people like us."

Uddin, who lives in Rockville, Md., described how slowing down during Ramadan this spring was "spiritually uplifting," but if there continues to be fewer traditional in-person gatherings, she is concerned that her children might not learn how essential religious community is to their Muslim identity.

Victor Rodriguez, 55, and his wife, Juana Rodriguez, 46, members of the Church of the Ascension, a Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan, have similar worries. He and his family of six attended church in person every Sunday, but now only he and his wife watch Mass on YouTube at 9 a.m. on Sundays.

Their four children, ages 14, 13, 8, and 5, used to volunteer at the church's food pantry, which was mainly staffed by kids. But when the pandemic hit, it was no longer considered safe for them to participate and the adults took over.

"It's real difficult," said Victor Rodriguez, an unemployed carpenter. Even so, he added, "we have to learn to live with this right now. We have to take precautions for us and others."

PROTECT THEIR COMMUNITY

Ed Brojan, 53, a member of the Chesapeake Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Baltimore, said his family has opted out of the small, in-person gatherings permitted by their church because he and his wife are nurses who want to help protect their community by remaining socially distanced. But they and their two children, 15 and 13, hold a sacrament service at home, something male members of the church can do if they become a priesthood holder.

"I definitely miss the feeling of community, the feeling of fellowship," Brojan said, referring to the services of yore.

The lack of community also has been tough for Holley Barreto, 40, a baker and cooking instructor, as well as her husband and their two children, who are 11 and 10.

"That's been a real loss for us when we can't physically gather with church members," said Barreto, whose family has participated in activities at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, N.J., throughout the week. "That's taken away a lot of what we really leaned on."

About a month ago, Catholic churches were permitted to reopen in New York City, and churches have fought to reopen in other parts of the country, too. Some families did not hesitate to return.

"I am kind of honestly tired of doing all this online stuff," said Robert Farina-Mosca, 54, who is now attending in-person services at Holy Trinity, a Roman Catholic church in Manhattan, with his 11-year-old son.

'I STILL CARE ABOUT YOU'

In the absence of any formal religious education, his son has been making cards that are delivered along with food donations. On one of the cards, he drew a platter with two chicken legs and wrote "Enjoy your meal." Then, on the inside: "Even though I don't know you, I still care about you."

Experts say small, simple gestures like those can help guide children in the tenets of their faith.

Corrie Berg, the director of educational ministries at Nassau Presbyterian Church, is empathetic to the many responsibilities parents are shouldering right now.

"I just don't think our parents particularly have the bandwidth to be creating -- or even just following -- at-home Bible studies or devotions or simple readings," Berg said. "All of that requires uploads, downloads, links, clicks, print outs -- and as a parent, especially with littler ones, you're just like: 'I can't even. There's no way.'"

'DO LESS, BETTER'

Her philosophy is to "do less, better."

David Zahl, a young adult minister at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Va., agrees.

Zahl, the author of "Seculosity," a book about how parenting, career and other worldly things have become like a religion, said parents often tell him how they feel guilty for missing religious services online. "It's a mix of anxiety and deep fatigue," he said.

Zoom church for young kids, with a few exceptions, is pretty much a nonstarter, he acknowledged.

"The first thing I want to say to them is, 'It's OK. Cross that off your list. God is not mad at you,'" Zahl said.

David Carey, 48, a hospice chaplain, said that before the pandemic he regularly attended services at The Refuge Church where he lives in Windham, Maine, and his twin boys, who are 5, went to Sunday School. But now everything is online and they're "Zoom-ed out," he said.

'TRANSCEND A LOT OF THINGS'

So he started playing Christian children's songs at home and singing them when he and his family spend time outside.

"I remember thinking, and even praying, 'Lord, how will they ever get to know any of this stuff?' And then all of a sudden they start singing this on their own," he said. "I've learned music is a way to transcend a lot of things."

In some respects, Zahl said, the pandemic could be considered an opportunity to help children better understand their religion.

"For parents who see things like prayer, spiritual conversation, asking for forgiveness, and overall modeling of grace in practice as the heart of their faith, well, the pandemic has been something of a gold mine," he said.

Lindsay and Robert Jacobs, and their daughter, Avery, watching a virtual Shabbat service hosted by Shira Averbuch.(The New York Times/Andrew White)

The Barreto family (from left) is Holley, Elena, Eric and Nico. They have held small socially distant gatherings in their backyard in Princeton, N.J., to see some of their friends from church.(The New York Times/Hannah Yoon)

Ten-year-old Nico Barreto (center) and his sister, Elena, 11, pray with their family. During the pandemic, they have also started saying what they are thankful for, like workers at grocery stores and small businesses.(The New York Times/Hannah Yoon)

Read the original post:

Grace and remembrance - Arkansas Online

Related Post

Comments

Comments are closed.