There is no denying we are in new and uncertain times as the COVID-19 pandemic grows and spreads around the globe. The Inclusive America Project’s (IAP) mission to create a sustainable and thriving religious pluralism in the United States is as important as ever in this moment. Theology, traditions, and beliefs from a variety of religious traditions call us to honor our communities and care for our most vulnerable neighbors.
Buddhism emphasizes the inevitability of change, Christianity calls on us all to remember that, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me [Jesus Christ],” and Islam encourages us all to remember our neighbors, even if they are strangers: “Serve God, and join not any partners with Him; and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet).”
All of us at IAP are confident that faith communities across the United States (and the world) will respond to this growing crisis in new, innovative, and important ways. In that vein, we are excited to share this blog with information on:
- Virtual events and communities you can take part in
- Religious literacy tools for you and any children in your life
- Ways we can support the most vulnerable in our communities
Finding Virtual Community
Faith communities and organizations around the world are responding to the COVID-19 virus with online resources and virtual communities.
In Religion News Service, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush of IFYC writes that “it’s a good time for people of faith to reflect on how well digital technologies serve faith communities and consider the future of religion.” At IAP, we hold firm to the belief that religion is “a source of comfort in times of confusion and suffering,” and that it can be an essential tool in combatting the decrease in compassion during pandemics.
While you take part in the critical task of social isolating, we hope you will explore the following opportunities to find community and connection:
- Sixth & I Synagogue will host all scheduled classes free and online.
- The Washington National Cathedral will live stream and archive all services on their YouTube page.
- Numerous Muslim Community Centers and Mosques from Georgia to Washington, DC will live stream Jumuah prayer services.
- The Liturgists Podcast continues to host weekly community gatherings on Zoom for members (memberships are available for $0-$25 dollars).
- The Unitarian Universalist Association provides a list of congregations with live-streamed and/or recorded services.
- Join OneTable for a virtual Friday night Shabbat dinner. Search through hundreds of already planned dinners or plan one with your friends and family here.
- The Online Faith Collective has been gathering and sharing online worship services and has created a virtual pastor network. If you are unsure of where to find online worship or would like to speak with a spiritual leader (over 30 religions, faiths, and spiritualities are represented!) this is a great start.
- The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom has begun facilitating the “Sisterhood Virtual Coffee Connection.” Sign up here to be connected with another sister one-on-one to share ideas, recipes, worries, or just to have a friendly chat! They will facilitate the connection, but it is up to you to set up a time and chose the format to meet.
- While finding virtual community is crucial in this time, it comes with a unique set of risks that includes cyber-bullying. As a recent Sikh Coalition blog says, “it may seem that there is less contact with other students right now, but the additional screen time and lack of classroom monitoring by a teacher may increase instances of cyberbullying.” Read more and find tips on how to talk to your kids about this important topic here.
- The group Jewish Boston Teens has created a Jewish Teen Initiative with many resources – for teens and their parents. And while you are on their website, take a look at their many virtual events!
Leading a Virtual Community
- Sign-up to the Sacred Design Lab’s newsletter to join their ‘Weekly Wisdom Sessions.’ These sessions are designed for those leading a community, supporting a community, or holding space for others. Each week a different wisdom teacher will offer words of clarity and comfort.
- Are YOU leading online worship or groups? If so, read this great resource by Jeanne Rewa and Daniel Hunter for some helpful tips and tricks before your next webinar or service.
- View this list from Wesleyan Church or this blog from Faith & Leadership at Duke Divinity to view resources for pastors and other Christian leaders thinking about the best practices to engage their communities.
- Author Priya Parker shared tools for creating meaningful connections with friends, family, and coworkers during the coronavirus pandemic on a recent TED Conversation. Watch here to see what she says about how we can take advantage of gatherings unique to this moment.
- If you could use ideas to help move your interfaith trainings online, this list of the Top 5 Interfaith Youth Core Curricular Tools for Online Learning is a resource with videos, interactive quizzes, and more to help in the transition.
Religious Literacy Tools
As gatherings, events, and classes are canceled, many of us are looking for new ways to fill our time. Here at IAP, we believe that religious pluralism relies on individuals having a basic understanding of religions. We hope you will take advantage of this time to review the following resources and brush up on your own religious literacy:
- Harvard and Yale are just two of many higher education institutions offering free online courses on various religious traditions (among many other subjects).
- Catholic Digest made a number of resources free for those who are unable to attend Catholic Mass and for those interested in the liturgy and traditions of the Catholic faith. Plus, you can check out this resource for children!
- IAP’s own primer on Religious Pluralism, “Many People, Many Faiths, One Nation” is a fifteen-minute curriculum responding to the question we frequently field: “what is religious pluralism?”
- Spend some time learning the foundations of Hinduism and about Hindu practices that help manage COVID-19 anxiety and stress.
- Islamic Networks Group (ING) offers curriculum on Islamophobia and its Impact, Ramadan and Fasting, & Getting to Know American Muslims. View these great resources here, and if you’re a teacher, you can request a presentation from ING here!
- Harvard’s Religious Literacy Project publishes a variety of short videos – including brief overviews of the six major world religions.
- The Sikh Coalition provides legal support for those experiencing discrimination, and they wrote this blog to ensure that Sikh healthcare professionals and emergency first responders understand their rights.
- Interfaith Youth Core created a hub of valuable resources for interfaith America. You can read blogs, watch videos, and explore curricular tools all on their new website.
Religious Literacy Tools for Kids
- There are many children’s books we enjoy at IAP! Some favorites are Fauja Singh Keeps Going by Simran Jeet Singh and What Does a Muslim Look Like? by Mohamed Abdel-Kader. While many local bookstores have closed, some are providing shipping at low or no cost.
- Apps like Libby enable you to virtually “check-out” the above books (and many others) from your local library.
- The Sikh Coalition just launched their Kids Corner. Tune-in each week for this virtual learning series. Their first session will feature a conversation with the author Rakhee Mirchandani, who will engage elementary school-aged children in a reading and discussion of her book Super Satya Saves the Day.
- All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) hosts classes, events, and much more on their website. With multiple programs each day, that you can watch live or on demand, there is something for everyone (including special programming for kids)! Watch here.
- Equity & inclusion are at the heart of dialogue. That’s why Generation Global from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change launched a new student learning pathway that is free, easy to use, & follows best practice for inclusion and web accessibility. Learn more here.
Ways to help your communities
Staying at home, washing our hands, and resisting the urge to hoard supplies are all ways we can stand in social solidarity and protect our most vulnerable neighbors.
Religious traditions have long been sources of guidance and inspiration for social solidarity. During this time, individuals, organizations, and communities can draw on their faith to take action and love their neighbors in the following ways:
- The Care Coalition is a grassroots, diverse partnership of social/civic organizations & volunteers serving as a connector between residents who need care & those who can give care.
- Meals on Wheels is an organization ensuring those who are unable to leave their home still have access to warm meals.
- Many local churches, synagogues, etc. are organizing their congregations to help at-risk community members. If you are in DC, the Table Church is organizing this form and the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation is asking for volunteers to connect those who are able to run errands with those who cannot leave their homes.
- The Berkley Center at Georgetown University is launching an online platform and sending daily emails to share how religious actors are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can sign up to receive this information here.
- Give to DC127’s Coronavirus Response Fund to help purchase groceries, Uber cards, and any other immediate needs for vulnerable families in the Washington DC community.
- Learn more about preparing your masjid to support and protect the health of your community with this guide from The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. Through collaboration with local, state, and federal health agencies, the document provides step-by-step ways to build upon the talents, gifts, and resources already present in many masjids.
- Social distancing guidelines have suspended in-person services and also impacted the donations houses of worship collect. To support Imams and their staff from around the country, you can donate to this LaunchGood campaign.
- The COVID-19 Emergency Fund from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has raised over 2 million to help meet the urgent needs of vulnerable individuals. Learn more and give to this fund here.
We hope you find these tools and resources helpful. This list is incomplete and growing daily. Please share resources that should be included on twitter with the #InclusiveAmerica or by emailing Abbie.Haug@aspeninstitute.org.
The views and opinions expressed in the linked resources do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.