'We're trying to do all that we can': COVID-19 upends tradition during religious holidays

Posted at 8:17 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 21:17:19-04

Multiple faiths will observe some of their holiest days this month, but COVID-19 is upending tradition.

Using an AM transmitter and video conferencing app Zoom, Pastor David Cross has been reaching the faithful from his church parking lot for weeks.

"They don't have to leave their cars at all. They just sit in the car and tune the radio to AM 800," said Pastor David.

The senior pastor leads the Riverwood Community Church in Burlington.

He's new to the church, but after 25 years in ministry, this is a first.

"We want to be respectful to the government restrictions, and yet we want to meet in person," said Pastor David.

Like other faith communities, Riverwood Community Church is adapting in light of COVID-19.

In Milwaukee, the Cathedral of St. John live-streamed Good Friday mass on Youtube, showing hundreds of empty chairs inside.

During a press conference Friday, Pastor Sean Tatum said Mason Temple Church in Milwaukee would do a drive-in service on Sunday as well.

"We'll have to use a lot of handwaving and maybe a blow a kiss from inside of your car, and so we're trying to do all that we can," said Pastor Sean.

The Wisconsin Council of Churches, a statewide network of 2,000 churches, encourages video conferencing but advises against drive-in services.

"It's a calculated risk. What if someone has to use the restroom? What if people decide to roll down the windows," said Reverend Kerri Parker, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council of Churches.

"We would rather have folks be able to worship in the safety of their homes knowing that eventually, we'll be able to come together," Reverend Kerri.

She added they (the council) would hate for the faith community to be a source of another wave of illness.

Pastor David says over the past six weeks of drive-in service, they have not had issues with people getting out of cars.

"It's really just been an opportunity for people to come and to see each other to connect and even to hear prayer requests," said Pastor David.

Religious organizing is exempt from the safer-at-home order but with limitations. In-person gatherings must include no more than ten people, and those ten need to stay at least six feet apart.

"Drive-in services" are allowed, but people should not get out of their cars at all.

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