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Churches, synagogues and mosques cancel services and shift online amid coronavirus pandemic

Religious groups are cancelling large gatherings and physical contact at religious services to limit the transmission of COVID-19.

MAINE, USA — Many churches, synagogues, and mosques in Maine have shifted their in-person services to online during this COVID-19 outbreak.

Faith organizations want their members to both stay at home and pray at home.

For most churches and synagogues, live-streamed services are available online or through their social media platforms. 

Father Frank Murray from the St. John's Catholic Church in Bangor says this is a time where people should meditate, pray and be reflective.

"We will encourage them to spiritually pray to be close to the lord even though they are not receiving him physically," Father Murray said.

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Father Murray said all of their masses will be live-streamed for people who wish to follow.

"Our masses are all going to be LIVE streamed, so there won't be a congregation present, obviously, they are not going to be able to receive communion," Father Murray said.

Congregation Beth El is a synagogue in Bangor that is also opting for remote prayers. On Friday night, Rabbi Darah Lerner led the service through Zoom, a remote conference call service.

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"Lead us in the blessing of lighting the candles and the blessing over wine, if you have those available and wish to light them at this opportunity," Rabbi Lerner said.

A synagogue member said people turn to faith in times they feel they are in crisis, and that's exactly what faith groups are doing from their homes these days.

"We've definitely had some members who have really struggled with the lack of services but I think that generally, everyone is really understanding that people's safety comes before those emotional and social needs," Kate Cykman, Beth El's Youth and Curricular Coordinator, said.

The Islamic Center of Maine says their daily prayer won't be as interrupted as other faith organizations since it's a religion where 97% of the prayers are by themselves, something they can still do back home without major interruption.

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"The thing about Islam that is different about other religions is that we don't need to have a leader to help us pray. We pray individually. 97% of our prayers are individual," Dr. Hassan Abouliesh, a board member of the Islamic Center of Maine, said.

The mosque will remain opened during the day for those who wish to individually pray and leave.

"Again they are practicing social distancing when they pray, they don't shake hands, they don't hug," Dr. Hassan said.

Faith groups in Maine are also doing their part to make sure all of their members are staying safe and have what they need. Many are sending emails or posting on their Facebook pages to remind their members to follow the CDC guidelines.

"Now when we've all slowed down, I hope that all of us can find a little more time to be reflective, to meditate more, to pray more," Father Murray said.

These faith communities all have important upcoming events and they are currently assessing how to make the events accessible to people without putting them at risk.

In April, religious communities celebrate Easter, Passover and Ramadan. As of now, those special services will be held online as well.

The best way for you to find information on your specific and local faith organizations' services is through their main website or their social media platforms.

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