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Finding religion outside the church

Publisher’s notebook

Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Dunkirk, like other churches, won’t be open until further notice. OBSERVER Photo.

Surrounded by empty pews on Sunday morning, the Rev. Daniel Walsh knew his message was being heard. On the first weekend that parishioners could not gather due to restrictions on society caused by the coronavirus, Walsh carried on via WDOE radio, with his weekly service from Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Dunkirk.

Tonia Piede, music director, opened the morning service with a beautiful rendition of “Christ Be Our Light.” Walsh took it from there, welcoming parishioners and others who tuned in to “radioland.”

“It’s bittersweet for me,” he said. “Bitter because you aren’t here. … I miss all of you. I want all of you to have what I have and what so many of you have, that great faith.”

Walsh reminisced about being a young child in Salamanca and having radio as the key component to the night’s entertainment. His service, for many parishioners, was a trip back in time during the high-tech wonder of the 21st century.

Of course, Walsh was one of many pastors and priests who were following a similar template.

With congregating a violation of social distancing, many parishes took to social media and websites to get their message out.

OBSERVER Reporter Natasha Matteliano’s article last weekend on “New ways to worship” spotlighted how some of the area’s churches were moving forward at this time. One of those places, Family Church of Fredonia, already does an excellent job of reaching those through their Facebook page.

Weekly services, featuring Pastor Michael Lokietek, are posted as recently as Tuesday and Sunday. What those who are going to these sites — or the radio — are looking for is some reassurance as the world around us spins out of control.

“People are afraid,” Lokietek said during last Sunday’s service while later offering some comfort.

“We ought not to be discouraged … but rather obey the words of the Lord Jesus Christ that we ought to be encouraged. We ought to be glad,” he said.

Hope Rising Church in Brocton also is using its Facebook page to reach parishioners and the community. Almost daily, a message of hope and optimism is provided

For many during this trying period, these messages of faith matter more than ever. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter bring us all closer together. But, with great disappointment, they can also be some of the most toxic and depressing places in our current lives.

Yet that same platform is so vital for these organizations in communicating their message — at a time when we need to keep our distance.

Walsh, in an interview in the fall of 2018, talked about the importance of churches and religion after the attacks on America near the start of this century. “Where would be without church on 9/11 in 2001?” Walsh asked in that interview. “The churches were full — especially that first Sunday after the event.”

Those same churches, due to a national emergency of a different sort, are now empty. That cannot diminish the spirit and message each denomination continues to send to its members and others who will watch and listen.

We will be healed and we shall overcome.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.

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