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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Religious groups respond to COVID-19 with online services

church+steeple
Photo by Creative Commons
church steeple

With COVID-19 spreading across the nation, churches and religious groups have had to cancel in-person meetings and transition to online services.
All religious buildings in Bryan-College Station have closed their doors completely, even for confessions and daily prayers in the wake of the Shelter-in-Place order issued by Brazos County that will began Tuesday at 9 p.m.
The Islamic Community of Bryan-College Station (ICBCS) has been hit particularly hard, due to how often they meet every week, ICBCS Outreach Activities board member Michael Thomson said. Since Islam encourages its members to meet together five times each day for prayer as well as gathering as a community, Thompson said this is a difficult time for Muslims.
“The masjid (which is the Arabic word for a mosque) is our place of worship and serves a special place in our community, with weekly educational programs, a Sunday school for the children, and a student center next door for college students to gather, play sports, and study,” Thompson said. “But now we have had to close the ICBCS masjid and student center due to the coronavirus outbreak, which is really a huge deal for us.”
Victory Church, a pentecostal group in College Station, has adapted to the situation by posting online devotionals and resources, hosting live Victory Church family meetings, connecting through age-group conference calls and sending young drivers out to run errands for those most at risk, Senior Pastor Keith Castleberry said.
“I warned our people in mid-February, so they were prepared and are handling it very well,” Castleberry said. “Most are engaged and supportive of others, even outside our church. The Kingdom of God marches on, no matter what happens in our world.”
Thomson said his community is handling the situation well, placing their faith in God to guide them through this moment. His congregation are still able to say daily prayers in their homes, and ICBCS offers online Islamic lessons for its community.
“As Muslims, we believe that God is in complete control of all events, and when we surrender to Him and put our trust in Him, we have a peace and tranquility that can only come from God,” Thomson said. “Although it’s human nature to start to panic during times like this, we seek refuge in our Creator to protect us, and after doing our part in taking whatever precautions we can, we submit to His will and are patient with whatever may happen.”
When it comes to the Islamic community as a whole, Thomson said though times are hard, the past has taught people of faith to trust God and grow in spirit.
“These situations also remind us that in the end, we all will die at some point — and remembering the reality of death can bring us closer to God,” Thomson said. “I think the Islamic community approaches the outbreak as an opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to remember their Creator and take an honest assessment of what really matters in life and to strive to be closer to God.”
For students, this time can be particularly difficult, both spiritually and mentally. However, though their world has changed, there is still hope, Castleberry said. He encourages students to remain connected with others and ready to serve when the crisis ends.
“I believe this is a great time to reaffirm their faith by getting into the Word, leave the media, drop out of the stress and give the Lord a few hours a day,” Castleberry said. “I believe this could be a pivotal time in many people’s lives, when many millions of people reevaluate what is important.”
Castleberry said the church has faced trials such as this in the past and that they must keep moving forward in faith.
“We adapt and overcome, and finding new paths of fellowship is challenging and rewarding,” Castleberry said. “Since the foundation of the Church, in 33 AD, we have always overcome with prayer, fasting, devotions in the Word and fellowship, this is no different. We press on.”

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