Religious Organizations Adapt during the Pandemic
By Ryan Nelson
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The S-U Catholic Center was quiet during the first six months of the pandemic. There were no students, no chaplains, no parishioners. The weekly Sunday masses had been cancelled for the rest of the semester. All the weekly events had been postponed until students were back on campus in the fall.
Father Gerry Waterman, S-U Catholic Chaplain, had to get creative with the way that masses were held. Fr. Gerry was already an avid Instagram user before the pandemic began, but now there was a need for that virtual engagement. He decided to host masses through Instagram live for students, now spread throughout the United States and the globe.
For Fr. Gerry, this still wasn’t an ideal set up though.
“It was very sad for me to do it without people, or in person. I was stuck in Florida,” said Waterman. “So, live streaming from a small little chapel, it’s just not the same looking at a camera, or excuse me, it was an iPhone, rather than looking at people’s faces.”
With change, came new challenges for everyone at the Catholic Center. Fr. Gerry finds comfort in the fact many students find him engaging, but, now virtual, it is difficult to convey the same energy.
Fr. Gerry wanted everyone who watched him to try and act like they’re really there, even though you can watch from the comfort of your own home.
”I can ask them to make it like you’re there. Dress up for Sunday. Make it a special part of your day. Don’t just lift the laptop up in your pajamas, you know? Because of course it may not be important at that time and you may just fade away and not pay attention,” said Waterman.
In other religious organizations on campus, most other faith groups have moved to this hybrid way of practicing. Rev. Brian Konkol, Dean of Hendricks Chapel, believes these online methods of worship might actually draw people closer to their faith.
“Worship services, prayer services, so on and so forth, through their online delivery,” said Konkol. “It has reached different people in different ways.”
Rev. Konkol says he believes the root of religious belief is the key for many through the pandemic.
”At the core of religion is the word ‘religare.’ Religare is the same root for the word ligament. Connectivity. Religion at its core is about connecting people to something outside of themselves,” said Konkol. “In the midst of difficult times, I am convinced that the ability to connect with someone or something outside of yourself is a reminder that: You are not alone.”