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SALT LAKE CITY — In his Sunday sermon, the Rev. Oscar T. Moses turned in the Bible to Psalm 46.
The Calvary Baptist Church pews were empty but the camera was recording. The sermon was later posted on the church’s YouTube channel.
At a time of uncertainty and growing concern about the spread of COVID-19, Pastor Moses reminded Calvary Baptist Church viewers that “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in our time of trouble.” He also quoted the well-known verse: “Be still and know that I am God.”
“The critical question is how do we handle life as Christians when we feel vulnerable and we feel that life has changed,” the pastor said as “Preach” and “Amen” appeared in the comments. “We need to remind ourselves of what we mean to God and what God means to us. He is our refuge and our strength.”
Pastor Moses is one of several faith leaders across Utah who have shared messages of hope and strength with congregations as people deal with the spread of COVID-19. Many of these faith communities have canceled or started streaming worship services while encouraging their followers to act in accordance with healthy governmental guidelines and recommendations.
The Most Rev. Oscar Azarcon Solis speaks at a press conference in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, after being presented as bishop-elect of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Ravell Call, Deseret News
The Most Rev. Oscar Solis, bishop of the Catholic Dioceses of Salt Lake City, posted a two-page letter on the church’s website. After explaining his prayerful decision to suspend Mass and other events, the bishop encouraged Utah Catholics to heed the warnings and continue to practice their religion.
“In our little and humble way, we can contribute to helping in this time of crisis by temporarily depriving ourselves of the Holy Mass,” Bishop Solis wrote. “In these trying times, please continue to pray and practice our faith. We worship as a community, and the gift of the grace of faith given by the Holy Spirit grows in the community as well as in us individually. While we cannot gather together in a worship space, we can still partake of a spiritual communion by watching the celebration of the Holy Mass on television or on social media, through our diocesan website or YouTube. Our churches remain open for your personal visits and prayers before the Blessed Sacrament as well.”
The bishop urged individuals and families to pray and read the Bible.
“Let us ask for God’s grace of strength and courage so we can withstand our trials and sufferings, follow the example of our forebearers in faith and by invoking our Blessed Mother to intercede for us,” Bishop Solis wrote. “May our trust in God’s power and through the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, help us to end this pandemic and grant us His salvation.”
Father Joseph Delka, the parochial vicar of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, said the gospel reading for Mass on Sunday was the story of the Woman at the Well (John 4:5-42). The woman was alone and isolated. Her thirst for water pointed to a deeper thirst of the heart and soul for truth, goodness, and love. Jesus met her in her solitude and distress and offered her living water, just what her heart was longing for, Father Delka said.
“We are in a difficult and uncertain time which brings out the best, the worst, and the weird in people,” he said. “Jesus still comes to us as he did the woman at the well. He offers solace and comfort. He offers his loving presence. He urges us to pray and seek God above all things. He urges us to love our neighbor.
“Pray for peace and healing for all affected by this pandemic. Be patient and kind with all you meet, especially those working overtime to keep us healthy and to keep the shelves stocked at the grocery store. Share your abundance with the needy (including your toilet paper). By God’s grace we can work together, do good to one another, and perhaps come out of this with a greater sense of what is really important in life.”
The Rev. Elizabeth Tay McVicker, the first woman to lead First United Methodist Church, poses for a portrait at the church in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
The Rev. Elizabeth McVicker, who serves as pastor of First United Methodist Church and Centenary United Methodist Church, sees hope in how this crisis is unifying people.
“Through this pandemic, I have seen the ways that the community is working together to curb the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “Churches are creating telephone trees to stay in touch, especially with the elderly. They are widening their capacity to use technology and video live-streaming. They are developing ways to serve the community through the crisis with food and supplies. I believe that eventually the virus will be eliminated, and we can curb its effects by social distancing for a time. Hope lies in the ways that God can use even a pandemic to create stronger bonds between us as we work together and find new ways to be connected.”
Last weekend President Russell M. Nelson, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared a three-minute message of hope across several social media platforms. The 95-year-old church leader asked members to take care of themselves and loved ones while looking for opportunities to serve others in need. In time these challenges will pass, he said.
“During these uncertain times, be comforted by this promise from the Savior. He said, ‘I the Lord am bound when you do what I say.’ I promise you that joy is always within the reach of everyone who will hear him and obey his laws.”
“With a heavy heart,” the Utah Islamic Center recently announced on its website and Facebook page that its services are cancelled indefinitely.
“Allah is our best protector and nothing can harm us, except for what Allah has already ordained,” the message reads.
Rabbi Samuel L. Spector, of Congregation Kol Ami, speaks at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Congregation Kol Ami, one of the largest Jewish communities in the state, announced plans to suspend in-person Shabbat services and hold services using livestream technology. Other upcoming events have canceled. The message was signed by Rabbi Samuel L. Spector and co-presidents Teresa Bruce and Jim Isaacson.
“Ultimately, our most important Jewish value is keeping our community safe while still trying to provide for their spiritual needs,” the letter reads. “Although these steps are requiring us to take unconventional matters, let us be reminded of the Talmudic teachings that ‘we shall live by (the commandments), and not die by them’ (B. Talmud Yoma 85b) and ‘(The rules against) endangering oneself are more stringent than (those against breaking a) commandment’ (BT Hullin 10a). We thank you for your understanding and for doing your part to ensure our community’s safety.”
Pastor Steve Klemz, of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Salt Lake City, is pictured on Saturday, May 11, 2013.
Ravell Call, Deseret News
In a Facebook message to members of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pastor Steve Klemz instructed his flock to “take sensible precautions,” watch over the “vulnerable” and “less mobile,” and to “please practice generosity.” He also offered this Biblical wisdom.
“In the living of these days, may you lean into the Spirit’s gift of peace. In times of anxiety and fear, let your prayers be shaped by the psalmist’s call to prayer: ‘Be still and know that I am the Lord’ (Psalm 46),” Pastor Klemz wrote.
“In this time of increased isolation and social distancing, the Spirit (who knows no boundaries) continues to connect us. Maybe now, more than ever, we will be diligent in our prayers and love and support and care for one another and our neighbor in need.”
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