Image courtesy of Medium
By Isa Pardino
In a world where everything around us seems uncertain, when people are more divided than ever, and loneliness and anxiety are at an all-time high, the one place where many people go to seek refuge, peace, and comfort is closed. “One nation under God” seems to have a different meaning recently as churches in the U.S. still struggle to open, and people are starting to question why.
Places of worship have had to adjust on par with other companies, if not faster, in order to accommodate the vast number of people with the spiritual and financial needs of the less fortunate. For many years, the church has been known to help those who are struggling financially, but now many churches are struggling themselves. Many states are still struggling to lift COVID-related restrictions because of the number of reported cases. There still seems to be a clear division on whether churches should be allowed to open with restrictions, like mandating social distancing and masks for parishioners and limiting the number of people allowed into the church or should remain completely closed.
Everyone has had a different experience during this pandemic, but everyone needs a support system, and churches are often a place of community and peace.
“I think if they [churches] are safe and strict, follow the guidelines and all the correct precautions are taken, then yes, they should be opened. People need that sense of community in times like this,” said sophomore architecture major Courtney Chalk of Maryland.
It can be hard to not have a support system; for many people, young and old, that is their church, and this long period of closure has been detrimental to their mental health.
“I have seen it first hand that church services can be done, in-person is a safe, effective, and socially distanced manner,” said sophomore Tomas Sujetg of Maryland. “Safety precautions such as masks, patience, and awareness are really important at such times, but I believe in-person options for mass should be available.”
Throughout the last seven months, it has seemed like the whole world has been in a frenzy; everyone has been reacting instead of being proactive, and places of worship are not excluded from this phenomenon. In fact, according to the Chicago Tribune, “it has been frenetic for houses of worship, who’ve had to adapt to an evolving reality since the coronavirus forced most in-person services to come to a screeching halt.”
“This whole situation is honestly what you make of it,” said sophomore Mary Petito of New Jersey. “My parish for example has the means of live streaming mass, which has made it possible for me to attend mass in some form.”
Making the best out of this difficult situation can seem impossible, but with a community of people working together to make the best out of trying circumstances, everyone can feel a little less alone in their struggles.
“As long as they’re abiding by the CDC’s guidelines, it’s ‘ok’ to be open,” said junior musical theater major Carrie Benitez of New York. “At the end of the day, we are the church and we are united through Christ even if we can’t attend mass in person.”
People have become frustrated by the restrictions, causing many restaurants and retailers to open up against state warnings. Many people have also noticed the fact that many states have opened up hair salons and shopping malls, but have kept churches closed.
“It bothers me how some places are allowing people to congregate for other things like sports, or at restaurants but won’t open places of worship.” said junior Justin Ancheta of New York.
However, according to Forbes Magazine as of August 28, in California, “87% of the state’s population, including Los Angeles and Sacramento counties, still prohibit places of worship, gyms and nail salons from operating indoors.”
“The churches are doing their part, the government needs to meet them halfway and let them stay open,” said sophomore philosophy major Sophie Gravino of North Carolina. “If any other business can be kept open, I think it shouldn’t even be a question that God’s house is open too.”
It’s a difficult situation; the world is in uncharted territory and everyone is trying to learn how to adjust to these changes. While churches are working to make these adjustments, it has still been difficult for dioceses to let their churches open with the intense restrictions.
“I personally think that if churches are abiding by the laws of the government, wearing masks, social distancing, limiting building capacity, and disinfecting high touch areas, there shouldn’t be any reason not to open churches,” said junior psychology major Katrina Siki of Pennsylvania.
Not having a sense of community can be difficult and feel lonely for many people. It is imperative now more than ever to have compassion and empathy for others.