Places of worship will reopen from October 1 in Meghalaya, a Christian majority state where churches have been shut for nearly six months now. It is something the devout are looking forward to, even as online prayer services have found favour with the elderly, ailing, pregnant woman, children and immune-compromised, whose movement remains curtailed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Milamon Kharshiing, 85, has never skipped church even during the coronavirus lockdown, thanks to online prayer services.
“I used to love going to church in the morning and also in the evening. Now that I can’t go to church anymore, I am happy that I could attend it from home. Whenever I am able to watch it (recorded sermons), I like it,” Ms Kharsiing told NDTV.
The popularity of online prayer services – which sprang up during the lockdown – may ensure they are continued even after places of worship reopen. Even clergymen have backed the use of technology to reach and stay connected with the masses.
“We believe it has had an impact on people, not only among Christians but in society at large. There are many other churches in Shillong, Jowai and other places that have been able to make a great contribution to the society by taking their service, songs and messages online,” Pastor Lyndan Syiem of Mawroh Presbyterian Church in Shilling said.
Shillong’s 200 or so churches, empty during the lockdown, were buzzing online with recorded sermon, live streamed mass and app-based interactive prayers.
“Now we have a choice of so many services. Earlier, you just went to your church. I’ve seen people from the poorer section of the community take the trouble to buy phones so they receive some kind of communication; so they don’t missed out on the Sunday service,” Pauline Warjri, a Sunday school teacher said.
Online prayers are here to stay even, say Shillong’s famous cathedrals which will soon be full of people with coronavirus safety measures in place.
“Even the Lord would not be averse to using technology. I believe if Jesus was living in these times, he would have used cameras, cellphones and the social media to preach about the kingdom of God,” said Father Michael Makri SDB, from Shillong.
Indeed, this is the new normal.
According to the 2011 census, Meghalaya has an estimated population of more than 27 lakh people, of whom at least 22 lakh are Christians.