Nasir Malik, director of public affairs for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Houston chapter at Baitus Samee Mosque on Spears Road, said while the mosque has always been open, social distancing measures and extra precautions for senior mosque members have been taken.
For the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which took place April 23-May 23, Malik said mosque members had to adjust to staying home instead of congregating with friends and other families.
“In normal days we would all go to the mosque every day, and we would have a small commentary of [the] Quran given by our local missionary or imam, and then we would all break our fast,” Malik said. “But because of COVID-19 ... the short commentary of The Holy Quran was done over Zoom [video conferencing] by our local imam 30 minutes prior to the iftar, and then everyone was breaking the fast at home with their family.”
Although large gatherings have been limited at the mosque and prayers are now done on a more individual basis, Malik said the pandemic has encouraged families to become more united.
“Before, we had one mosque and two prayer halls ... where people in Houston from our community could go and do prayers, but with this pandemic almost every house became a mosque,” Malik said. “Before, I would go to the mosque, and my wife and my daughters would do their prayers at home, but now I'm at home, so we all do our prayers together.”
Churches with an older membership such as North Oaks Baptist Church on Stuebner Airline Road are staying cautious about reopening, said church administrator Jimmie Howell.
Howell said the church instead plans to maintain current virtual operations through platforms such as YouTube and Zoom video conferencing.
“We use Zoom, which gives us interaction between people in attendance, and we've had a pretty good attendance with it,” Howell said. “It's been very interesting to get some of the older people to get on; a lot of them are not very computer-friendly.”
Howell said the church has expanded efforts to train church members how to use virtual services.
“It's worked out very well; we actually have a regular service on Zoom ... [with] singing, and prayer requests and lessons, just like we were doing it on-premises,” he said.
Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church priest James Burkart said Mass services have been able to operate at 25% capacity while maintaining social distancing, encouraging parishioners to wear facial coverings and sanitizing the church between services.
“Last weekend was our third weekend open, and the highest attendance we had so far was last weekend in our Mass in Spanish, which was 139 people,” he said.
Burkart said the church, located on Klein Church Road, is still offering virtual options to members who would still prefer to stay home.
“[Archbishop of Galveston-Houston] Cardinal DiNardo, and most of the bishops around the country, have suspended the Catholic obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, so we continue to livestream one of our Masses in English and one of our Masses in Spanish on ... Sunday, but we livestream all of our daily Masses as well,” Burkart said.
Communal gathering, however, still remains an important part of church members’ faith, Burkart said.
“I'm trying to take the information that is published by federal, state and local authorities, including our own bishop Cardinal DiNardo and ... think about how we can implement that, that keeps everybody safe but still allows people to gather in a safe way to worship,” Burkart said. “People's faith ... gets them through everything; illness and isolation and difficulty and death.”