Houses of worship in Philly vow to persevere amid new COVID restrictions

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The new COVID-19 restrictions in Philadelphia will have a major impact on houses of worship, which for the time being can operate at only 5% capacity.

While the Archdiocese of Philadelphia revises its guidance, some churches and synagogues in the city have a variety of innovative plans to carry on through the holidays.

"We believe that the Kingdom of God cannot be shut down," said Bishop J. Lewis Felton of Mt. Airy Church of Christ in God.

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Pandemic or not, restrictions or not, Felton believes keeping the flock together is paramount.

"When you're shut down, you lose connection with the people. God wants the people to be together by any means necessary," he said.

Since August, every Sunday at 10:45 a.m., they have been having services outside in the parking lot as people sit in their cars. They use big screens and loud speakers, plus a live radio broadcast to carry the services.

And at Rodeph Shalom on North Broad, Rabbi Jill Maderer says they're doing the best they can.

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"We have done almost everything in the congregation through remote connection," said Maderer.

But admittedly there is something missing in not having that in-person spiritual connection during this pandemic.

"There is an energy that is missing from worship experience and I would suggest it's missing from all of our lives," said Maderer.

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Philadelphia leaders have announced sweeping new restrictions as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the city.

Rev. Robert Collier, president of Black Clergy of Philadelphia, who has also been doing all virtual services, agrees.

"We know it's painful because people already expressed dismay, people are expressing sadness," said Collier.

"We have more people participating in our weekly services than ever before. I think because we all crave that connection," said added Maderer.

But for people of faith, there is a sense that we must do whatever we can to get through this.

"I think these restrictions do bring a new sense of need to buckle up and persevere," said Maderer.
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