We are all learning how to live life in new ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coordinating work and family responsibilities amid a global crisis.
Our religious communities continue to grapple with how to respond to this unprecedented time, as officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and government leaders have asked us to cease holding events with groups of people and to practice good hygiene and social distancing.
As EthicsDaily.com Executive Director Mitch Randall noted, following the social distancing guidelines from the CDC is urgent as we face COVID-19 together as a national and global community.
At BJC, we have heeded these guidelines and, since mid-March, we have conducted all of our work remotely.
The last public event we held, back on March 5, was the 15th annual Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State, co-hosted this year with the new Baptist House of Studies at the Perkins School of Theology on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Our speaker was Dr. Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, and he spoke to the students and members of the community about interfaith leadership.
I appreciated how Patel, a Muslim, talked about interfaith cooperation as one positive result of robust religious freedom.
“Religious freedom is an abstract idea that leads to a very concrete reality: Lots of different religions flourishing in a single political entity,” he said.
Amid this strange and often bleak time, one bright spot for me has been how we have seen religion, in all its beautiful array of diverse expressions, flourish.
As houses of worship have been shuttered by mandatory closures and stay-at-home directives, we have seen people practice their faith in new ways.
Religious leaders have responded to the health crisis with courage and creativity as they minister to their congregants.
With major holidays in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions – Easter, Passover and Ramadan – all occurring during times of social distancing, people of faith are celebrating in new ways.
Religious groups have also reached out to their broader communities in service.
I was inspired by an Alabama church that set up a coronavirus testing center in its parking lot, testing thousands within a few days in March.
In Bakersfield, California, the local Sikh community and RiverLakes Church worked together to make face shields for those on the frontlines combating the virus.
The Muslim community in Louisville, Kentucky, formed a COVID-19 response team to support the efforts of local government.
Hospital chaplains are ministering to patients and health care professionals in some of their darkest hours.
Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship across the country are opening up food pantries to help meet the surging demand.
These stories are just a few among many examples of people working together across lines of religious difference and leaning into interfaith friendships during a time of great need.
When pandemics bring grief and fear, people of faith are responding with social solidarity.
Robust religious freedom for all is at the heart of these expressions of faith. We stand up for the religious freedom of our religiously diverse neighbors because loving our neighbors means protecting their faith freedom as we would our own.
When we protect faith freedom, we don’t simply tolerate those whose religious or nonreligious beliefs are different from our own; we celebrate the gifts they bring to our community.
Parts of our “new normal” bring cause for celebration.
People of faith are deepening their own religious lives as they practice their faith in new, creative ways.
Interfaith and multifaith groups are building bonds of neighborly love and solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
While we can expect many more months of struggle ahead, we can also anticipate the flourishing of religious expression and pluralism in beautifully significant ways. Thanks be to God.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series focused on interfaith engagement. The previous articles in the series are:
Why Interfaith Cooperation Matters During Coronavirus Crisis | Rob Sellers
How Interfaith Partnerships Can Enrich Your Own Life | Rabbi Jack Moline
Executive director of BJC and the co-host of the “Respecting Religion” podcast series.