Virtual Worship Is Older Than You Think
4/15/2020

Spring is peak holy season in the United States: Easter and Passover are underway and Ramadan starts next week. While most faith communities have moved worship online, a small number have refused to stop in-person services, with deadly consequences. (Jack Jenkins at Religion News Service is tracking which states have religious exemptions from their stay-at-home orders on a map you can find here.) 

Samuel Boyd is assistant professor of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He explains that there’s a tension common across faith traditions between the idea that God dwells in specific holy places, and the idea that God can be found in all places and things. According to Boyd, Zoom seders, Facebook Live Jummah prayers and online Mass all feel new, but virtual worship has historic roots. There’s a long tradition of religious communities adapting when they’re denied access to their houses of worship — like when, say, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Twice.

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