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Jakarta Post

Churches turn to livestreaming, suspend activities to support social distancing

  • A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil
    A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, March 22, 2020   /   07:29 pm
Churches turn to livestreaming, suspend activities to support social distancing The Jakarta Cathedral. (Shutterstock/-)

On Saturday afternoon, Stefania Fanya Magis, her older sister and their two parents put on their best outfits as if they were going to their local church.

This time, however, they went to Stefania’s sister's apartment in Depok, West Java. They set up a table in the middle of her apartment, opened a laptop and tuned on a livestream of a Mass held by the Jakarta Cathedral.

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 increases across the country, especially in Greater Jakarta, authorities have urged people to maintain social distance and avoid large public events, including religious gatherings.

The Jakarta Archdiocese has ordered the suspension of most on-site church services in the city from March 20 to April 2. The weekly and daily services will instead be offered via livestream.

Stefani was well aware that drastic measures, including those related to religious observation, were instrumental to prevent contagion, but she said most elderly people around her were not.

Many of them kept asking what was happening and why they had to alter the tradition. Some were anxious about the adjustments to the services, Stefani said.

“During the livestream, my mother cried, asking ‘Why must this happen?’ I was speechless and couldn’t answer her question,” Stefania told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

“My parents, aunts and grandparents are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Nothing like this [pandemic and suspension of public life] has ever happened before in their lives,” she said.

However, Stefania was relieved that the online Mass was available.

“There is nothing good in praying and asking God for safety and health while we ourselves are putting others at risk [by attending large religious gatherings],” she said.

In the online Mass, communion cannot be given directly to congregants. The church instead offers an online communion prayer, Stefania said.

“However, even with these adjustments, I feel like I am encouraged to be more disciplined in my devotion to God through prayer,” she said.

Under normal circumstances, Stefani’s family regularly goes to the Santo Markus Catholic Church in Depok, as they live within the parish, while Stefania frequents the Saint Theresia Catholic Church in Menteng, Central Jakarta, for choir practice.

“We prefer the online Sunday mass provided by the [Jakarta] Cathedral because they are the most ready. They started streaming last week while other churches were still providing on-site services,” she said.

Budi Komala, a 30-year-old freelancer and photographer, listened carefully to the Jakarta Cathedral’s livestreamed Mass on its YouTube channel with his wife and toddler at their home in Tangerang, Banten, on Saturday.

“During the first few minutes of the Mass, I was amazed by how technology could help in situations like this. I never expected myself to turn to online Mass from home,” Budi said.

He said that church officials had prepared the online Mass well enough, although he still felt something was missing.

“I am a little sad to be honest, especially during the communion. We cannot directly receive it like we usually do at church,” he said.

As of Sunday, Indonesia had confirmed 514 cases of COVID-19 and 48 deaths.

Instead of enforcing lockdowns in the country to curb the virus, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has ordered mass testing.

On Friday, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan declared a state of emergency in the capital, limiting public transportation and urging offices to suspend operation for 14 days as of Monday.

The city has also suspended mass prayers in places of worship for two weeks, including Friday prayer at mosques, Sunday services at churches and the upcoming ceremonies commemorating Nyepi (Hindu Day of Silence).

In Surakarta, which had recorded 11 confirmed cases and three deaths as of Saturday, a number of Catholic churches, including the city’s largest church, Santo Antonius Purbayan, provided their Sunday Masses online to comply with instructions given by Semarang Archdiocese vicar-general Robertus Rubiyatmoko on Thursday to suspend all religious services involving large crowds.

"This Sunday we relied on online streaming by the Semarang Archdiocese. Next week, we will broadcast our own Sunday mass," priest Stefanus Bagus Aris Rudiyanto of Santo Antonius Purbayan said. "Religious activities often attract large crowds. It's better for us to suspend church activities at least until Friday, April 3."

Some Protestant and Pentecostal churches in Surakarta are using Youtube channels or Instagram accounts to broadcast their Sunday services.

Amboina Diocese, covering the Maluku and North Maluku provinces, has canceled all Sunday Masses and diocese activities until April 4.

 

– Ganug Nugroho Adi and Belseran Christ contributed to this story from Surakarta and Ambon.