Editor’s Note: This story was part Universe Live’s October magazine show for The Daily Universe Magazine.
During the pandemic many changes were made to maintain Church attendance. Church members have had various experiences with at-home and virtual Church during the last year and a half.
The COVID-19 quarantine stopped and changed everyone’s daily schedules to look different. With COVID-19 vaccines available, officials have announced newly reduced restrictions. For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that meant changing where they administered their sacrament from inside their own homes, back to inside the chapel.
“It was great that we had had that counsel and experience to have Church in the home,” said Kelly Shelton, Bishop of the Grove 10th Ward.
When COVID-19 began to spread, many businesses and events began to shut down including Church meetings. As a result, wards began to use the app Zoom and sent out meeting links throughout their stakes to continue sacrament from the comfort of members’ own living rooms.
“We have a technology specialist, so that’s been a new calling, something that’s been needed,” Shelton said.
Near the beginning of this transition into Church over Zoom, the bishopric and Church members encountered lots of technical difficulties.
“And then there were also days when our specialist was gone. One time we had to have an audio only cause we couldn’t quite get it figured out before sacrament,” First Counselor of the Grove 10th Ward Kent Bartholomew said.
Aside from the technical problems, Church leaders still encountered some major differences in how Church over Zoom is conducted versus in-person.
“We have sacrament at the end of Church. We have a closing prayer, but we’re not done. And I think another difference is that we stopped streaming Relief Society and Sunday School. So people who are at home still don’t get a second hour of church,” Bartholomew said.
In addition to that, bishopric members also became more involved than ever before with passing the sacrament.
“We were preparing the sacrament, myself and the other bishopric counselors until we got the other boys involved. So that was interesting,” Boyd Tanner, second counselor in the Slate Canyon 15th Ward, said.
Even with all the technical problems that arose, Church members still found some positives to attending Church at home over Zoom.
After COVID-19 began to spread, many missionaries were asked to return home and with quarantine, many families were not able to attend homecomings in person.
“By offering Zoom we’ve had family members in other states that are so grateful that they could be there when their missionary comes home and talks. In fact I had a comment from a mother of a missionary that said, you know, it was just like being there. You know, the picture was so clear, I could hear so well,” Shelton said.
Many families near and far watched using the Zoom links to become part of their missionaries homecoming celebration. In addition to homecomings, Zoom links also provided a way for families to be involved in other major events such as baby blessings.
Some members found holding Church over Zoom beneficial but others found it difficult.
“Logistically maybe it’s a little easier, but it’s harder with regards to feeling like you’re part of the ward,” member of the Slate Canyon 15th Ward Nina Tanner said.
The transition from Church over Zoom to in-person is hard fro many who still have health issues and can’t attend in-person, but they have also found the good in having Church at home.
“I have adult children who haven’t attended Church services in years and because we were doing a little sacrament on our own at our own home, they were willing and able to join us for a little lesson and to partake of the sacrament,” Nina Tanner said.
Church leaders set in place many new health protocols to help keep ward members who want to come back in-person feel more safe. They have set in place social distancing throughout the chapel, encouraged members to wear masks and put hand sanitizer throughout the building.
“Help everyone feel the Spirit, in any way we can share the gospel or be part of, we try to do it,” Boyd Tanner said.
Bishops and Church leaders would still like to invite all those interested in attending sacrament to attend, either via Zoom or in-person.