Rabbi Mendy Goldberg, The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr. and Marie...

Rabbi Mendy Goldberg, The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr. and Marie McNair Credit: Rabbi Mendy Goldberg; Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.; Rebecca McNair

March 11 marks the fourth anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, ushering in lockdowns, social distancing and other measures to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus’ spread. This week’s clergy discuss how such changes have led to a new normal in the post-pandemic era.

Rabbi Mendy Goldberg

Lubavitch of the East End, Coram  

As Jews, we look at world events not as happenstance, but in the same way that we see all events in our life, as opportunities to learn a life-altering lesson. In Jewish terminology this is called “Divine providence.” G-d’s presence is in every part of our life. So, you can imagine that when COVID hit, there was a lot we needed to grapple with as we sought to think out of the box to continue to bring warmth, joy and services to those in need. As modern technology evolved, with all genres of social media available to us, we harnessed the tools at our disposal to teach and connect. We continue to use those mediums today, even post-COVID. We have Facebook Live and other online classes, and we created a weekly podcast. Being there for the mental and physical health of those in need is important, so we give classes addressing mental health issues and spiritual life coaching. We teach appreciation of the life and health G-d has given us, and in being thankful for every breath we take — and never taking that for granted. The lessons learned will be something we will continue to live with for years to come.

Marie McNair, East Patchogue

Secretary, Regional Baha’i Council of the Northeastern States  

Every day, Baha’is pray, read from their Scriptures, meditate and reflect on how to put Baha’i teachings into action. With the understanding that worship and service are inseparable components of a spiritual life, Baha’is and their friends also pray in devotional gatherings in diverse settings open to all, often in their homes, to infuse the spirit of worship and service in communities everywhere.

When COVID struck and in-person gatherings were not advisable, changes began that continue to affect Baha’i worship. With people everywhere affected by illness, loss of loved ones, fear and isolation, there was a rise in the need for service, and so various forms of social action and the number of devotional gatherings using technology increased. Additionally, that same use of technology welcomed participants in devotional gatherings from various parts of the country or world, thereby bringing an infusion of the arts and cultural expression that enriched the experience for those involved. For Baha’is, who seek to improve their own lives and contribute to the advancement of civilization, the opportunity to go back to having devotional gatherings in their homes or reach out through technology has been beneficial in their efforts to build vibrant communities.

The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.

Pastor, Church-in-the-Garden, Garden City  

It has been nearly four years since the world shut down, and COVID continues to shape how the Church-in-the-Garden worships and how, as a pastor, I approach worship for the long term. COVID obligated us to look at ministry and worship differently. The comfort our church enjoyed in the past — doing church the same old way — was radically reconstituted to imagine how we can meet people’s spiritual needs by more expansive and accessible means. We had to embrace using virtual methods to present our worship services and utilize our livestream and Facebook page. Consequently, our worship has been viewed in over 60 countries. Moreover, COVID fundamentally exposed the need for us to examine our human connections and how we see ourselves in relation to something greater than ourselves. Our worship now reflects the reality that we all have been through an existential event in the pandemic. When we come together to worship, our prayers, praise and preaching take on a deeper meaning as we all have experienced life in the time of COVID. That means our worship and ministry must constantly evolve to ensure we are truly serving God’s people, no matter how the mysteries of life unfold.

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