Augustana religious organizations adapt to COVID-19 regulations

Molly Sweeney

Religious organizations such as Augie Catholics, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Campus Ministries have all adapted in specific ways to follow Augustana’s COVID-19 guidelines. 
Senior Maria Wood is a member of Augie Catholics. Catholic mass has been different this year as it has mostly been held at the Anderson Pavilion in compliance with social distancing and COVID-19 regulations. 
“We’re spaced at least six feet apart from each other which definitely makes it safer. When we have communion, [the priest] comes up to us individually and we can not take off our masks to receive the host until he walks away,” Wood said. 
As of right now, adapting to a masked, socially distanced worship service has worked out for Augie Catholics. An online version of church, however, may not feel as substantive. 
“We could do online church, but in-person has more of a community feel and it feels like we’re all together. If we have to go online, it’ll feel like that is all being taken away,” Wood said. 
On the other hand, social distancing during worship still presents some challenges. 
Sophomore Anna Podborny believes that it is more difficult to feel a sense of connection.
“We definitely still feel like we’re together, it’s just that the Augie Catholic group thrives off of close contact,” Podborny said. “I think we’re kind of losing that sense that we’re one big group together and now it kind of feels like we’re all there individually, rather than a group.” 
Augie Catholics still make an effort to allow people to worship and feel heard during this time. 
“Even though we aren’t close together and interacting very personally, it’s still a supportive group of people and there are opportunities,” Podborny said. 
Overall, Augie Catholics, despite a transition to a new way of worshipping, have had the opportunity to worship properly.
“There’s a lot that is keeping it from being a normal worship, but I think that we just have to do the best that we can. We do have the in-person option for mass, and there’s a lot of virtual options in the community,” Wood said. 
The MSA has also had to adapt during this time. 
Fatima Sattar, faculty advisor to the MSA, said that they are not meeting in person to worship at this time. There are two places of worship nearby, one in Iowa and one in Illinois, and both observe COVID-19 regulations such as social distancing and mask wearing. 
“We’re not getting together physically and it may be harder for students to travel off campus because not everyone has a car and may not be familiar with public transportation. And it’s maybe harder given that the places of worship are far from campus,” Sattar said. 
Although the MSA is not travelling off campus to worship, Augustana has provided places on campus to worship. There is a prayer room in Olin that any student can use, however, only two students are allowed in the room at a time due to its size. 
COVID-19 has made worship more difficult during this time, not only physically, but mentally as well. 
“Added stress can contribute to students, faculty members, any community member not wanting to do as much as they used to because they’re coping with what they’re going through so I think some personal factors may impede in worship,” Sattar said. 
Newer students may be unaware of worship opportunities because worship is more informal than in years past. 
“I especially feel for the new students or the transfer students who might not know all the resources that are available to them. Hopefully they read the campus wide emails, and I really appreciate how the college is doing that so people can see what’s going on,” Sattar said. 
Students have the opportunity to worship, should they choose to do so. 
“Worship can be a very personal thing but it can also be done in a social context. In the Islamic tradition, there aren’t many requirements for the space you worship in. If they need support, there are people on campus that can support them,” Sattar said. 
Campus Ministries has adapted to follow COVID-19 guidelines as well. 
Connie Huntley, Campus Ministries executive secretary said that COVID-19 has caused Campus Ministries to only hold worship service on Wednesday evening, as opposed to Wednesday and Sunday. 
“As far as differing from last year, services start at 8 p.m now. But otherwise we still have the service, we still have music, so it’s a good time,” Huntley said. “What makes it totally unique and different is that everyone is wearing masks, and the programs that we have had through Campus Ministries, you just can’t do.” 
Campus Ministries is able to hold worship services outside right now, but as it grows colder that might become more difficult. 
Jon Hurty, choral director, said that in order to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, Campus Ministries may need to adapt further to keep everyone safe. 
“The service is the same in and out, but the difference is that outside we’re allowing people to sing, they wear masks so it’s no problem. But when we’re inside only the quartet, the music leaders, they are the only ones that sing. Everybody else is asked to listen to the words and reflect on them,” Hurty said. 
Campus Ministries works to ensure that students that want to worship have the opportunity to do so.
“We encourage them on Sundays to worship, we send out links to virtual services around the community that they can attend,” Hurty said. 
Campus Ministries is determined to give students a safe place to worship, especially in a time filled with uncertainty. 
“That’s one thing campus ministries are known for. No matter sex, religion, beliefs, we have an open door policy and we welcome everybody. Everybody is welcome and we always say that by all means we are here for you if you’re willing to come.” Huntley said.