Alabama faith leaders struggling to balance safety and holiday worship services


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in Alabama, many religious leaders in the state are left balancing the need for safety and ministering during one of the busiest religious times of the year.

But it’s become common place in house of worship, row after row of empty pews. Many have long since moved the services online.

“I don’t know many synagogues around the country that are doing anything in person. If they are it’s extremely limited,” said Rabbi Scott Kramer of Agudath Israel Etz Ahayem Synagogue in Montgomery.

“I do more phone calls and I do more Zoom meetings. I see my congregants more now than I used to,” Rabbi Kramer said.

The outgoing Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, the Right Reverend Kee Sloan, says the pandemic has forced most of his 87 congregations to push harder into the digital world. But he says each church is different when it comes to what they can do in person.

“There are some places that are set up in a way where people can spread out. And there are others that are congregations where it’s best people stay at home,” Bishop Sloan said.

Meanwhile, many churches and synagogues are taking their services outside for the holiday season.

“We’re doing a drive-in. We’re going to have people come park in our parking lot and stay in their cars. We’re going to light the Hannukah menorah. It all be on Zoom so people can join Zoom in their cars,” Rabbi Kramer said.

Bishop Sloan says despite the desire for people to come together and worship during the holidays, maybe it’s best to just stay home and look forward to next Christmas.

“Pandemics come and go. Politics come and go. Bishops come and go, but the church remains,” Bishop Sloan said.

Despite lack of in-person services, many religious leaders say the pandemic has brought in new members from around the world thanks to more online services.

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