Rozier Discusses the Role of Faith and Worship During the COVID-19 Pandemic

To sit idly by and wait for the pandemic to end would be “a tremendous disservice.”

That’s according to Rev. Michael Rozier, S.J., who said that despite the widespread desire for the pandemic to end and for life to return to normal, the lessons individuals have learned and questions that have come to light during this time are crucial to the progression of society.

“It’s tempting to rush through these intermediate stages because they’re uncomfortable,” he said. “There is much less known about them. But we need to be asking what is [being] asked of us now, in this moment. And that takes a kind of retrospective character.”

Rozier, an assistant professor of the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University, discussed the role of faith and worship during the COVID-19 pandemic at an Oct. 1 webinar titled “Public Health and Public Faith: Life During A Pandemic.”

Rozier said the struggles all individuals have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, but offered a silver lining—the inequities the pandemic has unveiled, including unemployment rates, the digital divide of remote learning and working from home, and the many essential workers who do not have the privilege of staying home, serve as a opportunity for society to grow.

“This moment, this kind of intermediate moment between when the pandemic began and when we might achieve some kind of normal, is actually a time of tremendous grace and opportunity,” he said. “I think we’re not just learning about the virus, but com[ing] to know more about ourselves, both as individuals and as members of our communities.”

In particular, the pandemic illuminated racial inequalities in society, Rozier said at the webinar, which was sponsored by the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. With this knowledge of racial injustice comes an obligation to work to alleviate it.

“These disparities rooted in racism in our community primarily [are] something to lament, absolutely decry, [and] work against,” he said. “It is also very helpful for us to know more clearly that this is not a false narrative, that this has always been with us. And in order to remedy the situation is, it is not just going to happen by luck, or chance, or with time—that it has to be actively worked through.”

Rozier also drew a parallel between the scientific timeline of the virus and the evolution of worship during the pandemic. 

“I think we’ve come to know quite a bit about the virus over the past many months but we’ve also come to know quite a bit about ourselves,” Rozier said. “So, regarding the virus we have moved from the unknown to the better known.”

Conversely, the worship community was pushed from the familiar and forced to adapt to a new reality in which in-person worship, service, and connection were no longer possible, Rozier said. 

Rozier posed questions asking why faith communities were so negatively affected by the pandemic, why worshiping at home was difficult for many, and how this may impact post-pandemic life. Individuals can learn from this experience, he said, and that while disruptive, it is “revealing and helpful” in preparing faith communities to be better equipped in the future.

“Why were we so vulnerable at this moment?,” he asked. “But then also, what will it look like to both live in this moment well and to live in the post-vaccine, hopefully [a] new normal?”

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor

October 18, 2020

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