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Turning to technology and prayer, Canada’s faithful adapting to pandemic realities

FILE - The Mass of the Lord's Supper is live-streamed from St. Anthony Parish in San Gabriel, Calif., Thursday, April 9, 2020, with no parishioners present. Without the ability to have public Mass and visitors due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the parish live-streams its services. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Summary

Canada’s faithful are dealing with the realities of observing holy days during the COVID-19 pandemic

A poll says 60 per cent of Canadians pray and, among those, one-in-five are doing it more these days

Technology is allowing people to gather for virtual group prayer sessions and to observe services while at home

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Empty Easter masses. A lonely Passover for many. A less communal Ramadan.

It is an important time of year for some religions and Canada’s faithful are dealing with the realities of observing holy days during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That includes how many people will be celebrating holy times coming up for them according to their own faith traditions,” says Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

“This is the time of year when we would have seen the Vaisakhi parades in Vancouver and Surrey – those won’t be happening. For people of the Christian tradition, masses celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday are no loner happening. For people of the Jewish tradition, it means that Passover is a little bit lonelier and for people of the Muslim faith, Ramadan becomes a more solitary month ahead rather than being able to eat communally at the mosque or have friends and family over,” Kurl tells NEWS 1130.

To help with feelings of isolation during the virus outbreak, it seems some people are turning to technology and prayer to connect with others of their faith.

A poll from the Angus Reid Institute finds 60 per cent of Canadians pray and, among those, one-in-five are doing it more these days.

“Among people of faith, they are finding that prayer is something that is becoming a real source of strength and forbearance for them as they go through this time,” says Kurl.

“Among those who are most religious, vast majorities say they prayer they have been doing is helping with things like loneliness and isolation, fear and anxiety, grief, anger, depression and hopelessness. These are emotions all of us are feeling and everybody is dealing with them in their own ways, but among those who turn to faith in normal times, they are really doubling down on it now.”

Technology is allowing people to gather for virtual group prayer sessions and to observe services while at home. The poll finds online mass, Zoom prayer sessions and religious apps are among the most popular ways to connect.

“Tech is starting to fill some of the gaps around not being able to go to a house of worship – church, mosque or the synagogue, among other places,” Kurl adds.

One-in-five Canadians polled also say they or someone they know has been helped by local faith communities during the pandemic.

“We know community groups have been stepping up in all kinds of different ways. Faith institutions have been part of that. They may be checking in on people home alone, they might be participating in food banks or finding other ways to support people who are in bad shape financially.”