HELENA — The use of video communications and social media platforms has been an avenue for faith-based organizations to stay connected to members of their congregations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Many of the parishes were not able to do it. They did not have the equipment or the volunteers, some just use their phone, but long-term, that just was not enough, so we tried here at the Cathedral, and at the Diocese to use technology to allow people to log in right into us," said Bishop Austin Anthony Vetter of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Helena.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk, of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana, based out of Bozeman says in March of 2020, he took the shutdown seriously and immediately switched to using online tools to keep his family and others in the community safe.
Being a native New Yorker, Rabbi Bruk lost his uncle to COVID-19, as well as others close to him during the pandemic. "About 80 colleagues and relatives that died in a span of two weeks," he said.
Both religious leaders agree that relying on technology during the pandemic was vital, although it is not a long-term solution to replace human interaction. They stress the importance of mental health and the feeling of isolation that some of their members experienced.
"People struggle with isolation on a good day in Montana. Now, you literally take away their lifeline, like, shutting down services," said Rabbi Brunk.
Especially the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, "home-ridden or in nursing facilities, you know, this isolation is harder on them than it is on any of us, I think," said Bishop Vetter.
According to Catholic tradition, receiving the sacrament of Communion is a large part of the faith.
"We cannot receive the holy communion at home. Now, you can receive a spiritual communion in which Jesus comes to us because we are not able to receive communion, but that is different from being able to receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus is what we believe it is," said Bishop Vetter.
Rabbi Bruk, agrees, "technology can never replace the human touch. Technology can never replace human interaction."
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