Religious communities shift to accommodate COVID safety protocols

Posted at 7:27 PM, Jan 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 08:07:26-05

IDAHO — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, religious communities have shifted their traditional ways of practice to accommodate safety precautions.

When most people think of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses, they picture folks walking around in the community and neighborhoods spreading their own messages, but COVID-19 has put a big halt on that.

Idaho News 6 spoke with both groups, who say it has been a challenge to shift from traditions and the "typical" way of practice, but this pandemic has provided both with a "silver lining."

"The pandemic really forced us to "Hey, we've got to do this differently," Boise Mission President Martin Nygaard said.

Door knocking has gone silent for The Church of Jesus Christ, but the message has not. Nygaard said The Church of Jesus Christ has started reaching out to people either by phone, social media, or email.

"As one leader said in a meeting I was attending, there aren't enough cars. There aren't enough missionaries to knock on everyone's door in the world. These new tools allow us to reach out to people and give them a message of hope and love gratitude in new ways," Nygaard said.

In 2016, The Church of Jesus Christ got approval to start using devices like cell phones to reach out to people but decided to stick with the traditional door-knocking primarily until the pandemic forced the virtual connection shift.

"The great thing about this is, is that the interested people, they respond. They come to us. So, we're not knocking on the doors of people who don't want to talk to us. We're reaching out, and then people who want to hear the message or feel a need in their lives. They can reach out to us, and we can respond. It's been a wonderful, wonderful thing," Nygaard said.

Similarly, the Jehovah's Witness community also has traditionally gone door to door in the past.

"As emotional as this was, it was a simple equation for us to say, its got to stop and how do we find a way to do this better in these times," U.S. Jehovah's Witness spokesperson Robert Hendriks said.

They, too, had to make a switch to virtual outreach, which they say was already a plan.

"It was something that we put off. We liked the way we did things. We love visiting people. We love going to homes. We love walking down the street. As difficult as this may be for somebody to understand, we actually enjoy knocking on our neighbor's door and getting to know them," Hendriks said.

The transition to a virtual world came quickly, but ultimately it has been a success.

"It has made a very vibrant ministry even more vibrant because we are reaching many people. We have had really good results. We have people who become Jehovah's witnesses who have never been in one of our Kingdom Halls, who have never been to an actual meeting or have never been to one of our conventions, and we never thought something like that would happen," Hendriks said.