About Preaching Goes Viral

A Time to Gather: In a Crisis, Understanding Religions

The novel Coronavirus can be fatal or asymptomatic, cause severe respiratory issues or barely register as a cough. And the diversity in religious responses to the pandemic is just as varied.

There is an urgent need to gather preaching data including sermons and statements, as well as other religious responses as the pandemic spreads — not later. A time of crisis elevates the importance of applying an intellectual and empathic approach to understanding other points of view, no matter how different from our own. Enter Preaching Goes Viral: Religious Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic, a student engagement initiative at Miami University that aims to track and analyze the breadth and diversity of religious responses to the pandemic. The initiative focuses on sermons, statements and commentary in English, from institutions and voices in the U.S. and beyond.

Deference or Defiance?

So far, religious and political differences have been far from flattened by reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. Churches, synagogues and other religious voices are expressing broad disparity in their sermons and public statements about where they stand between deference and defiance. While some preachers are urging their flocks to stay home, others say that religious duties should not be subject to what they consider secular whims. The response is often more desperate when non-compliance with official guidelines is characterized, rightly or wrongly, as a threat to public health.

In this cultural cacophony, two things are certain:

The PGV Initiative

To capture the comprehensive breadth of religious responses to the spread of COVID-19, Assistant Professor of Teaching within the Miami University Comparative Religion department, Hillel Gray, and his spring 2020 semester students have launched an innovative research initiative, Preaching Goes Viral.

Preaching Goes Viral is a student engagement initiative to compile and analyze religious responses to the novel coronavirus. It was started with undergraduates enrolled in Gray’s Spring 2020 Introduction to Religion and Global Jewish Civilization courses, followed by 15 summer interns, and will continue in the 2020-2021 academic year. Through training in critical distance, research team members are applying qualitative research and non-judgmental analysis skills to material produced by religious voices and institutions at a time of global public health crisis and social distress.

As an extension of Gray’s ongoing “Empathy and the Religious ‘Enemy’” project, the initiative will build a crowdsourced database that will be made publicly available to journalists, religious groups, scholars, and others seeking to track and understand the religious responses to the pandemic.

Here's a sampling of recent student interpretations and analysis of PGV data:

COVID-19 AND AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS IN MAINE

Maya Wasserman

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How have Central African churches in Maine responded to COVID-19? How have their unique experiences shaped their views of the virus and the policies surrounding it? The following exhibit presents several sermons given by pastors in the Central African community. Within these sermons, three themes emerge that illuminate the community's response to the pandemic.

 

REFORMED ASIAN AMERICAN EVANGELICALS AND THEIR RESPONSES TO COVID-19

Victoria Choi

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Many Asian American Christians did not have to come to terms with their racial identities in the church before COVID-19. Congregating at church seemed far removed from the sociopolitical landscape in which many Asian Americans ____. Preachers encourage their congregants to look beyond race and place value in their Christian identities.

However, when news outlets reported that the coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China was quickly making its way across the world, anti-Asian sentiments reemerged overtly, confirming for many Asian Americans that the subtle microaggressions they experienced in their daily lives were telltale signs of further ingrained prejudices.

THE BLESSINGS OF TECHNOLOGY IN CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOLS

Nastassya Ferns

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For students, teachers, and religious leaders, the utilization of various digital tools during COVID-19 became imperative to maintaining a sense of normality in a faith-based, educational setting. From Facebook sermons delivered to homes worldwide, to the migration of classrooms online, to email newsletter updates sent daily to quarantined families, new forms of digital engagement emerged within the Catholic high school community at the onset of COVID closures. The Blessings of Technology in Catholic High Schools urges us to consider the implications of maintaining faith during COVID-19, and how these schools utilize and adapt to a newly-constructed educational landscape. Throughout this examination, I pose the question: What does it mean to combine faith, education, and technology? 

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  • Social media advertisement for socially distant church youth group activity

    My church youth group usually hosts a several week long program in the summer for graduating high school seniors called Thrive. It deals with the next steps in life (college or otherwise) and how to maintain your relationship with God and Christian community. This year, the program was still held in person, but due to restrictions the students (about 20) had to set up chairs six feet apart and wear masks. This summer, I had a part time job (working virtually from home) running the social media for our youth group, and I created graphics like this one to post on Instagram each week as a reminder.
  • Eid al-Adha Amidst a Pandemic

    When I was younger, I would wake up to the holiday of Eid al-adha to presents, a lavish breakfast, and getting all dolled up to head down to the mosque for the special Eid prayer to then spend the rest of the day with friends and family. Unfortunately, this important holiday was spent six feet apart and wrapped up in masks. The day before Eid, my dad sat all of us down and told my family how this year would work, considering the mosque was able to open back up with certain regulations regarding the pandemic. At first I was so excited to hear that we were allowed back there, until he began telling us that we have to keep our masks on the entire time, you won’t be allowed to stick around and socialize afterwards, and we have to remain a certain distance apart from each other at all times. I started to reminisce on the thousands of people of all different backgrounds that would always come to Eid prayer, if anything else. I took for granted how significant this day is for Muslims once it actually came, and none of us could celebrate it the way it should be celebrated. Once I got there, we immediately had someone come up to us to take our temperature, make sure we were sanitized, and gave us each masks if need be. He guided us into the mosque, and to my astonishment, the beautiful place of worship I’ve known since I was a kid was all marked up with placeholders that were each six feet apart to tell us where we were able to sit. We got in, completed our traditional prayer, and left. The energy was not how it usually was in there. The minute I come inside the mosque, there are always people greeting me and waving, and the whole room is buzzing with laughter and smiling faces, but this year everyone's countenance was masked. Our Imam told us to never lose hope, and that we will all be able to look back at this and remind ourselves how far we have come together. The pandemic has truly caused the Muslim community to become more and more grateful for everything they have, because it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.
  • ‘It ain’t real’: Local pastor’s COVID-19 sermons raising eyebrows

  • Navigating COVID: Our Ancestors Pointed the Way

  • Message from Rabbi Knopf and Howard Yancovitch Regarding Shul Reopening Procedures

  • How is this Pesach Different from Other Pesachim

  • Chag Pesach Sameach from Rabbi Tonya

  • Sing posted to Ocho Rios Methodist Door

  • Keeping In Touch +A

    Since we are not able to meet at the present, I still want to stay in contact with you in every way possible. I plan to provide a brief message here a couple of times each week. Some of our older people do not have computers and so do not have access to this site, but a ministry project for you would be to call one of those people and read the message to them.
  • National Day of Prayer +A

    May 7th is designated National Day of Prayer. We always stand in need of God's watchcare over us, but surely during this time of the COVID crisis the need must be keenly felt even by some who seldom consider the need of God's daily mercies in our lives, May we all join our hearts in special prayer asking for God's help, for He has promised to be a present help in trouble. Let us pray for President Trump, our Governors and all in places of authority. We should also pray for the doctors, nurses and others who are working diligently to minister to those with the virus. Human beings often think they can find a solution to every problem but this crisis reveals how fragile we really are and how much we need the mercy and grace of our sovereign God.
  • We've All Been Exposed

  • Vatican’s Commission for Covid-19

  • The Psychology of Crisis

  • Hand Sanitzer Next to Guest Book at Funeral

  • Letter from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jamaica

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