- One counter to the invisible enemy we now face is healthy religious practice, which can benefit romantic relationships and parent-child relationships. Tweet This
- In the fight against the coronavirus, small daily actions, such as washing hands, can make a big difference. But there are also powerful health benefits to engaging in small actions of faith. Tweet This
Editor’s Note: The following essay is the eighth post in our week-long symposium on how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect family life. This piece is adapted from a longer essay published at MercatorNet.
Heightened uncertainty, anxiety, and fear abound during this global pandemic. Religious gatherings often bring a sense of peace and safety, but in this case, congregating for worship can spread the very virus everyone hopes they and their loved ones will avoid. Whether you believe that houses of worship should remain open during this trying time, or that they should close, our research has found that meaningful religious practice at home is both possible and powerful.
Those for whom regular attendance at religious gatherings is a meaningful part of life may find that the peace, joy, and fellowship typically obtained at religious services are an especially acute loss. Many find that gathering with fellow adherents to sing, pray, worship, and celebrate is a meaningful contribution to their mental and social health.
We all are facing a powerful invisible enemy that strikes without regard, except that it seems to prey on our most vulnerable. One counter to this invisible enemy is healthy religious practice, which can benefit romantic relationships and parent-child relationships. Indeed, there now exists a large and growing body of empirical evidence that demonstrates that faith in God and meaningful engagement in a faith community both provide tangible, measurable benefits to mental, relational, and physical health—including years of longevity.
A large and growing body of empirical evidence demonstrates that faith in God and meaningful engagement in a faith community both provide tangible, measurable benefits to mental, relational, and physical health—including longevity.
A large body of research has shown that meaningful rituals help individuals and families cope with stress, change, and anxiety. Recent studies show that a healthy combination of regular religious practice and functional family relationships may be ideal.
The diverse families of faith we have interviewed practiced a wide range of religious rituals and activities at home. These practices reportedly deepened their faith in God and strengthened their sense of connection with their family members. Such patterns of home-based worship take on pointed relevance in our current COVID-19 context where houses of worship have been closed.
Prayer, studying scripture, singing hymns, lighting candles, discussing spiritual topics, storytelling, a shared meal—all of these shared acts can be elements of family worship. And service to others in the human family comprises yet another way for families to worship God together.
Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique service opportunity for many of us, regardless of faith, to similarly reach out to provide shopping assistance and food provision for the elderly and needy within our circle of influence. (See www.justserve.org and “Meals on Wheels” for local opportunities).
Further, our research supports the importance of being authentic in faith, including building authentically warm relationships with family members and acting in authentic ways while engaging in family religious practices, such as family prayer.
In the fight against the coronavirus, small daily actions, such as washing hands and avoiding public gatherings, can make a big difference. But there are also powerful health benefits to engaging in small actions of faith, including gathering together as a family for regular prayer, reading and discussing sacred texts, listening to each other and serving one another with a compassionate heart and respect, and serving our communities.
In the present extremities, we have an unprecedented opportunity to draw closer to each other as we literally come home to faith and family.
David C. Dollahite, Ph.D., is Camilla Eyring Kimball Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University and co-director of the American Families of Faith project. Loren D. Marks, Ph.D., is Professor of Family Life at Brigham Young University and co-director of the American Families of Faith project.