Dartmouth religious organizations adapt to coronavirus

Mar 26, 2020

In times of crisis, some turn to religion for guidance — but amid bans on large gatherings, local places of worship sit empty. 

But that hasn’t fazed many of Dartmouth’s spiritual centers.

Religious leaders all over town are doing their best to make sure their congregants’ spiritual needs are met in spite of social distancing.

For most, this means shifting many church services online. Rev. David Frederici of St. Mary’s Catholic Church has done this through daily live streams of morning mass, which are uploaded to YouTube. 

Frederici is also holding meetings on teleconferencing services such as Zoom and connecting to parishioners both online and over the phone.

He is even working on a virtual tour of the church for a field trip that had been planned for this spring.

“Ironically, I’ve been busier now than I have before,” Frederici said. 

St. Mary’s is not alone in this shift to live-streaming services, as places of worship all over Dartmouth are finding ways to adapt to the current climate. 

Some, such as Rev. Chad Hartis of the non-denominational Christian South Coast Church, have used Facebook Live in order to maintain services while keeping in touch with congregants through the site’s comments section.

“This will be the format that we’re gonna continue using for the next several Sundays,” Hartis told his Baptist congregation in a recent stream. “I want this to be a time to help connect us mentally and emotionally.”

Similarly, Rev. Scott Ciosek of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church has also made the move to video sermons, with nearly 1000 views on his latest stream. 

The church’s free counseling center, The Bridge: A Center for Hope and Healing, also remains active, with clinicians offering live community on Facebook.

“That’s what I see as the real work of the church,” Ciosek said. “It shows that we are responding.”

Of course, there have been challenges. Frederici has had to shut down services like baptisms, communions and funerals. 

And many church members miss some of the more communal aspects of the weekly gatherings. 

Holly Coutinho from South Coast Church said that she misses rehearsals and other opportunities to gather. “There’s definitely something missing about not being in church,” she said. “It’s a little jumbling inside.”

For smaller establishments, such as the Islamic Society of Southern Massachusetts, there are no ways to worship locally.

Instead, outreach coordinator Martin Bentz encouraged Muslim residents to search for online sermons from some of the larger mosques around the country. 

He noted that the mosque is still reaching out to worshippers over the phone to see how they are doing.

Rabbi Raphael Kanter of the Tifereth Israel Synagogue is also making phone calls to check in on many of his elderly congregants, who are more at risk of illness. Kanter is also broadcasting videos of weekly readings. 

He says that while the transition has been a challenge, now more than ever people need to listen to experts. “God works through doctors and experts,” Kanter said.