Religious services thrive online as coronavirus social distancing rules are enforced

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Religious services in Maidenhead have had to radically change in light of measures preventing gatherings in places of worship.

Many faith groups have shifted online, including St Michael’s Church in Bray, Maidenhead Mosque and Maidenhead Synagogue.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain has transitioned well to the new format, now live streaming Friday and Saturday services on the Maidenhead Synagogue website.

The rabbi is experienced in radio broadcasting, and used this knowledge to live stream for the first time last month.

“Although I was unsure how it would feel, it went very well,” he said. “You have to get used to speaking as if you’re speaking to an audience, even though you’re alone.”

The synagogue has also created a ‘telephone tree’ of support, whereby 100 of its members will regularly call eight others, covering the whole community.

Meanwhile, the Reverend Ainsley Swift of St Michael’s has been faithfully posting daily or twice daily prayers on Facebook.

Some aspects of church remain difficult to deliver from a distance, such as Holy Communion. Ainsley said that if people want to be led in Communion remotely, using bread and wine in their houses, that is an acceptable alternative.

“We have to be as creative as we can,” he said, “I think God will understand.”

Maidenhead Mosque has also been live streaming its Friday prayers and has begun offering its Quran study classes online.

“It’s a shame we’ve had to close the mosque, but people realise it’s our only choice,” said Sajid Khan, secretary of Maidenhead Mosque.

“We have a lot of high risk people in our community and their safety is the most important thing.”

All the places of worship have discovered that more people have been ‘attending’ the online services than would attend in person.

They have guessed that what the new audience is looking for is not just spiritual guidance, but a sense of community.

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