Keeping the faith during a pandemic

Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 5:26 PM EST
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WOODSTOCK, Vt. (WCAX) - New restrictions in Vermont to curb the spread of the coronavirus do not affect current guidelines for houses of worship. But the pandemic has definitely had an impact on how people practice their faith.

“God’s word, the Bible gives me hope and it is a comfort,” said Pat Wittasek.

Wittasek has continued to go to church through the pandemic. Though for several months, that was done remotely. She is back to in-person worship which she says is much better.

“You get to see their eyes and tell them in person that you care about them and you don’t do that on Zoom,” Wittasek said.

In-person services are taking place at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Woodstock, though numbers have dwindled due to the church’s aging population. Pews are roped off, everyone wears masks and hand sanitizer is at the front door.

“The contact is not there like you would have in a family house where everybody is on top of each other,” said Father Michael Augustinowitz.

But, the pastor calls his congregation one big extended family.

“We had a baptism. We haven’t had a baptism in a while, so it’s a good feeling,” Augustinowitz said.

Other houses of worship have remained fully remote, holding services online. That includes the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in White River Junction.

“I’ve been able to do some of my pastoral visiting in some very meaningful ways over Zoom which surprised me,” said Rev. Scott Neal.

The reverend says he misses in-person services but he says, offering it remotely has actually helped grow the flock.

“We are here for each other. We are here to support each other and keep each other safe and to really be a loving community,” Neal said.

Despite the many changes taking place in churches around the country, the faithful say one thing will never change. “God is still here. He has never abandoned us and he will never abandon us,” Augustinowitz said.

While Vermont and New Hampshire have not taken any new actions to limit religious services, New York has. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that limits the number of people who can attend worship.

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