Other States

Coronavirus | Odisha churches resort to live-streaming of worship

People obey the social distance maintain rule to buy the vegetables and other essential goods for their family at the Neheru Stadium in Bhadrak town.

People obey the social distance maintain rule to buy the vegetables and other essential goods for their family at the Neheru Stadium in Bhadrak town.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

‘We have been doing this after the government issued an alert about the unfolding situation,’ says Paresh Das, Secretary, Church of Christ (Union Church).

At a time when religious congregations are seen as places that facilitate faster spread of Coronavirus, churches in Odisha are using technology to make the faithful participate in Sunday worship from remote locations — a first in local church history.

After the Odisha government asked the authorities of religious institutions to practice social distancing, Internet-based social media came to the rescue of the church leadership.

Bhubaneswar-based Church of Christ (Union Church) and Koraput-based Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC) have been reaching out to people by either beaming the Sunday worship live through social media or making available deferred live-recording of the prayers.

“We have been pre-recording the Sunday prayer, songs, reading of the Bible passage by pastors and the sermon. The same is then sent out through different social media channels at the appointed time of worship. We have been doing this after the government issued an alert about the unfolding situation,” said Paresh Das, Secretary, Church of Christ (Union Church).

“After the government alert was issued, the church premises have been kept closed. Besides the Sunday worship, we have prayer, Bible study, women's and youth programmes through the week, which are also being made available in the homes using the same technology”, he said.

“The beauty of it is that all these worships are now being watched by people around the world who are blessed,” Mr. Das said.

“This coastal region has faced three major cyclones in the past two decades. But it could never interrupt Sunday prayers in the church. This is, perhaps, the first time since the inception of the capital city we are not congregating for worship in the church. However, we extend full cooperation to the authorities as we realise the need of the hour,” he said.

The 140-year-old JELC authorities said old-timers apprehended the suspension of Sunday worship. However, everyone was happy to participate in prayer even though they were not able to be physically present in the church.

On a Sunday, the pastor would go to the church and lead the worship before empty benches. But the prayer would be beamed live through social media. As most of people have got smartphones they could watch and participate in the worship live. Technology had been helping the people to tide over this unprecedented crisis, said church sources.

“The worship is linked to people’s faith. Although people are emotional about worship, they are also aware about the life-threatening potential of this Coronavirus. It is important to protect one’s life as well as those of others’,” said Asish Pal, Bishop of JELC Church.

Bishop Pal said, “we had never faced such a situation in our history that we had to suspend prayer in churches. Nearly about 500 congregations in undivided Koraput district alone have been debarred from coming to worship. Churches are following the lockdown measures prescribed by both the State and the Central governments.”

Holy Week celebration unlikely in churches

Churches said there was now little possibility of holding the Holy Week celebration of Good Friday and Easter Sunday in the churches in April second week. In the Easter Sunday prayer, about 5000 people gather at the cemetery at Jeypore.

Meanwhile, civil society organisations have decided to take the help of the public address system available in 75 temples in western Odisha to make people aware about COVID-19. “We are already in discussion with village heads to allow use of loudspeakers for making people aware about the extraordinary situation,” said social activist Saroj Barik.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 11:29:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-odisha-churches-resort-to-live-streaming-of-worship/article31216826.ece

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