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Staying connected to the Church community during COVID-19

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads, it has forced governments to restrict our access to some day-to-day services, events, shops, and even to places of worship.

These have taken the form of bans that have subsequently forced changes in how individuals interact with each other. This is immediately apparent in the case of parishioners and their attendance at mass and in their ability to access other church resources. Some worship services are now using online technology.

Some in the congregation are comfortable using technology, but there are  elderly members of the Church community who aren't.  With limited IT connectivity they may struggle to maintain access to the social and spiritual connections they normally enjoy through their participation in church masses and other functions.   

This article outlines risks and potential solutions to help a Parish that may need to overcome physical separation from parishioners and whose people may need technological knowledge and support.

Risks of disconnecting

  • Declining mass participation

With all places of worship now closed many Dioceses and Archdioceses are streaming mass over the Internet, or recording masses and uploading to YouTube for parishioners to access from home.  

  • Less engagement within Parish functions/ gatherings

Individuals have difficulty meeting in large groups or for gatherings within the community, or cannot be present at another person's home. Within the Church environment these factors contribute to parishioners feeling their sense of community within the Parish diminishing.  

  • Physical and psychological issues

Negative health effects generally present during social isolation. Research has linked social isolation to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease, and even death.

Conversely, people who engage in meaningful and productive activities with others tend to live longer. Social interaction is known to boost the mood, and give people a sense of purpose. Studies show that being active among others helps humans maintain well-being and improves cognitive function.

Action that makes a difference

Promoting socialisation during this period of self-isolation is important. Parishes can consider and review their opportunities to connect with their parishioners by using alternative mediums;

  • Technology offers a Church the ability to post mass online and distribute messages through a Parish website.

  • Email communications are a convenient tool and can even carry short video messages.

  • Some Parish members are communicating over the phone, encouraging each other during a challenging period. 


These are ways for a community to check in on others and helps to retain a sense of parish community. Some Dioceses are even producing Liturgy packs for distribution. It's an innovative initiative that supports parishioners in staying connected and involved within their Parish.

Contact online is a frequent substitute for in-person interaction. Not only does it promote a feeling of connectedness, it's also a distraction from other concerns.

Parishioners with IT connectivity can access a range of resources online to help improve the IT skills of people in Church their community. The Australian Seniors Computer Club Association (ASCCA) is the national peak body for seniors and technology. Their National clubs provide assistance and education to seniors who wish to improve their IT skills. 

The best way to learn more about becoming digitally connected is with the help of others. For many Parishes, having a strong social presence in a digital world plays a vital role in allowing others to express their faith and find new ways to worship with others.

 

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