Area Catholic churches are largely empty now on Sundays, with all public Masses canceled in Colorado on March 13 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
But that doesn’t mean Masses aren’t happening. Priests are performing Mass without parishioners in their churches, streaming it live or recording videos.
“It’s a very, very good way to help people feel connected when they’re isolated,” said Nativity of Our Lord‘s Father Michael Carvill, whose Broomfield church is livestreaming Mass. “It gives people a moment in the day that, when life is turned on its head, they can center. A relationship with God at a time like this is very important.”
But those leading the Mass this Sunday didn’t include Carvill, who went into quarantine Sunday morning at the advice of his doctor because he had symptoms, including a fever, associated with COVID-19. He couldn’t get tested, he said, and will instead stay in his room until he’s been without a fever for four days.
In the meantime, the parish’s other three priests will continue to celebrate Mass for parishioners at both Nativity of Our Lord and Sacred Heart of Mary Church in east Boulder. Nativity’s three nuns are filling in as the choir for the services. A rosary also is recited daily at 7 p.m. and streamed live.
The livestream had about 560 connections the previous weekend, with more watching later, according to church officials.
Carvill, who led streamed Masses before he was quarantined, said he tries to speak to parishioners as if they were in the church. He also invites those watching to join in spiritual communion, saying the prayer together as a community.
Broomfield’s Diane Denfeld, Nativity of Our Lord’s director of stewardship, is watching the live Masses as often as she can with her husband and four children during their visits to her 90-year-old mother in Boulder.
“It’s a nice experience,” she said. “We all gather in the family room. It’s very much still a group feeling of going to Mass.”
Instead of a live Mass, Boulder’s Sacred Heart of Jesus started a week ago filming videos of daily Mass celebrated by priests, in Spanish and English, at the small chapel in the parish center, then sending those videos to parishioners through a communication tool. About 1,900 families are registered with the parish.
Boulder’s St. Thomas Aquinas, which serves the University of Colorado Boulder, is sharing Mass at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays through Facebook Live. On Sunday, Father Shaun Galvin encouraged those watching to “join me in all the things you normally do at Mass, as far as you can, standing, sitting, kneeling.”
Other area Catholic churches are directing parishioners to the Archdiocese of Denver’s website, which includes streamed Mass led by Archbishop Samuel Aquila. The Archdiocese also is compiling a list of individual church Masses.
Of course, it’s not just Catholic churches figuring out ways to continue services remotely.
Boulder’s Second Baptist Church posted its first video sermon on Sunday, adding it to a collection of audio sermons on its website. Flatirons Community Church, which has a campus in Lafayette, also is streaming its services online on Saturdays and Sundays.
Congregation Har HaShem, a Boulder synagogue, set up a connection to services, as well as other regular groups, through Zoom. According to the website, there were 120 connections to Friday’s service.
Har HaShem Rabbi Fred Greene said the synagogue was already streaming services for those who are homebound, but moved to Zoom the weekend of March 13 to allow the four prayer leaders to lead from their homes.
“We wanted to model to our community how important it was to stay at home if we could,” he said, adding he also uses it for his Torah study group and used it for a bat mitzvah this weekend for two 13-year-old girls. “Zoom has been very helpful to commit to physical distancing and social connections.”