In Los Angeles, the statewide stay at home order has forced religious communities to turn to Zoom and other online platforms to keep congregants connected.
Hope on Union United University Church held its Easter services on Zoom, which was chosen for its ability to allow parishioners to share prayer requests and engage with one another, according to Reverend Sunny Kang.
"My people like to see one another, [it's a] small congregation, and one of the highlights of our church is close interaction," said Kang in a phone interview.
Hope on Union UUC also has started offering bible study and other social and spiritual groups via Zoom to allow congregants to stay engaged even while physically apart.
"People have responded very positively, and we were able to do some new things that we weren't able to do in the past, so this gave us new opportunities," Rev. Kang said. "We had people on our Zoom call from six different states."
Synagogues across Los Angeles have also been using technology to connect with their congregants weekly. During Passover, which started on the evening of April 8, many synagogues offered live-streamed Seders, allowing congregants to celebrate together virtually.
Stephen Wise Temple on the westside of Los Angeles has been offering virtual Shabbat services via Zoom on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, featuring various sessions appealing to different audiences within the community, like daily Torah study sessions and Sunday religious school services.
“We were already streaming those live from our sanctuary, using Facebook Live,” said Jeremy Goldstein, director of marketing and communications at Steven Wise Temple. “So switching to doing that with all of our clergy from home has not been that difficult.”
The temple has seen an increase in its social media following since transitioning to online.
"We have a lot more views online," Goldstein said. "I think it's a combination of the people who would have been there in person but now can't be so we're getting a nice boost because of that, and then also just being on Facebook.”
Stephen Wise Temple also offered a YouTube broadcast of the traditional first night Seder and offered the option to attend a live Zoom Seder which congregants could register for on the second night.
USC Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni explained that campus religious groups are offering remote ways for students to remain religiously and spiritually engaged during Easter, Passover and Ramadan, which will begin later this month.
“We’re seeing a huge uptick in the number of people thinking about spiritual and religious life online,” Soni said in a phone interview. “In times of crisis, in times of anxiety, and in times of uncertainty, people look to faith communities to try to make some sense of that which seems beyond comprehension.”
Dean Soni explained that student engagement in religious and spiritual life has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Office of Religious Life and churches in South Los Angeles offering programming including bible-study, group discussions and mindfulness sessions not only for students but alumni and community members.
“We’re doing whatever we can just to maintain a sense of connection, community, and care during these very difficult weeks,” Soni said.