Tuesday, June 2, 2020

How churches in the East Lansing area have been impacted by COVID-19

April 14, 2020
Residents gather and listen to speakers Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, during the Voices of Faith and Reason: Commissioning Peace event at the University United Methodist Church, 1120 S. Harrison Road. The event is held to celebrate the International Day of Peace. Adam Toolin/The State News
Residents gather and listen to speakers Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, during the Voices of Faith and Reason: Commissioning Peace event at the University United Methodist Church, 1120 S. Harrison Road. The event is held to celebrate the International Day of Peace. Adam Toolin/The State News —
Photo by Adam Toolin | and Adam Toolin The State News

Churches in the East Lansing area have had to adapt to the circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Lansing have been holding Mass online or on TV during the pandemic, including East Lansing churches St. John the Evangelist Church and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. 

For their services, they have been using Facebook and YouTube. Live recording has become the standard for religious services in the area. 

“Sometimes we have up to 200 people viewing at the time of our live stream and hundreds of more views of the recorded event later,” Father Gordon Reigle said via email. "And our outreach mass during this time of quarantine has thousands of viewers by TV and radio each Sunday morning — I am thrilled to see this kind of response.”  

Outreach Mass has been airing weekly on WLAJ Lansing TV53 at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. They are filmed at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, close to Michigan State's campus.

Private baptisms, funerals and marriages may continue, but only with immediate family present, according to Catholic Diocese Director of Worship Jeremy Priest.

In addition to switching to online services, priests in the Catholic Diocese of Lansing have been visiting hospitals.

“For those who are actively dying, our priests are still going to hospitals and homes to administer the sacraments to the extent that health precautions allow,” Reigle said.

Hospitals are only letting medical personnel into the rooms of COVID-19 patients, Reigle said. To account for this, priests pray with patients over the phone.

“As priests, we pray with the sick and dying by phoning the (COVID-19) patients in their rooms, which is limiting, but better than nothing,” Reigle said. 

He said the food cupboard at St. John and St. Thomas Aquinas is still handing out food on Saturday mornings.

“All of these ministries are subject to change by law or by health precautions, so we’re trying to respond on a day-by-day basis,” Reigle said.

Michigan has the fifth most cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of Easter Sunday, April 12. The state also has the third most deaths in the nation at 1,602.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the stay-at-home executive order through April 30.

“Although we would rather be in church, praying together online has helped to feed the flock spiritually and maintain our unity in a trying time,” Reigle said.

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