Worshipping with the World: Finding a Worship Space in the Midst of a Global Pandemic – Lilly Freemyer

In the midst of a crisis, I often find myself searching for one of my safe spaces. Top of this list is the Washington National Cathedral, where I spent nine years attending school and worship as an acolyte. However, during these trying times we have been instructed to stay home and not gather in large groups. These instructions prevent millions of people, like myself, across the nation from worshiping with their communities in their safe spaces.

I first noticed the threat to worship communities when a rector at Christ Church, Georgetown, a parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, tested positive for COVID-19, possibly spreading it to as many as 550 worshipers. For many, this Sunday service was supposed to bring a sense of peace and grounding, while there was so much uncertainty outside the walls of the church. However, the following days brought anxiety and fear because the results of the rector’s test came in the days after the Sunday service. 

This event was nearly a month ago, when the virus first began to spread across the United States, yet people were being sent home from abroad and plans were being set into motion to handle this global health crisis. Like many others, I was anxious and nervous about getting home from school and what this would mean for the foreseeable future. 

This week the Interfaith Fellows discussed how our religious communities are adapting to this new reality. I have been trying to watch the National Cathedral’s live streams on Sunday mornings. The Cathedral has a unique perspective because for years they have had a virtual congregation that participates in worship every week, along with the people sitting in the pews. The worship team at the Cathedral has always acknowledged the remote participants’ presence and importance to our community, but I had never been in their shoes until now. 

It is a unique experience to watch via screen, especially when the nave is empty. It feels as though the worship leaders are talking directly to you. Sitting in the nave of the Washington National Cathedral is a special experience in and of itself because of the grandness and history that lies within the walls and floors of the structure. 

I have used the time I am watching to pause and find a sense of purpose when everyday feels the same. Worship reminds me that there is something greater in the universe than myself, political leaders, and a global pandemic. This period of social distancing would be a lot more difficult if I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in worship. 

Finding time to worship is even more important now than ever because my family does not worship as diligently as I do. When I got to high school I began to carve my own path and chose to attend church on my own. Now that I am home with my family I need to make a greater effort because there is not anyone holding me accountable to go, like there is in Madison. 

Quarantine has brought me a new perspective on worship and the importance it has in my life. I have also learned through the CRGC and Interfaith Fellows that religious people across the world are facing a similar situation. My peers in the program have helped me to deal with this new reality through support and finding new ways to connect with my religion.