Encountering work remotely during a pandemic
During the coronavirus pandemic, parish priest Pirkko Järvinen has met people through Teams and held services in an empty church, reaching the parishioners via radio.
”My basic duties includes worship services, ceremonies and services, confirmation classes, and care home work.
Holding worship services has changed completely over the past year because parishioners have not been able to be present and the Holy Communion has hardly been distributed.
In Lohja, worship services have long been broadcast on the radio, fortunately, and in the early summer, proper streaming equipment was finally installed in the church. I believe that events such as services and concerts will continue to be streamed to those who do not get to attend them in person.
The confirmation classes have now been run online.
The services such as blessings, baptisms, and weddings, have changed much in nature, with a maximum of six people, including ward workers, allowed to attend during the most severe restrictions.
Especially at funerals, such a small number has seemed difficult, and not all parishioners have accepted it. Fortunately, with the permission of the pastor, a little more people have been allowed to attend the funerals, so that all the nearest relatives could take part.
I have not conducted weddings during this time, and many will certainly postponed them to the post-coronavirus time in the hope of bigger celebrations.
Online meetings with young people bring challenges as they do not want to keep the cameras open, and we lose that face-to-face contact. I hope that from now on, I could meet the confirmation class students live, because at least it would be much easier for me.
Fortunately, there are also various online activation methods, such as the Kahoot Games. We have also received our share of pranks, as once, for example, young people had shared a link to participate with a large group of friends, and many outsiders tried to join our meeting.
I have held services through Teams.
For the residents of the care homes, I have held services through Teams, and they have reached the residents with the caregivers being able to help with connections. It has been possible to say hi online and sometimes someone has been eager to talk even a bit more.
In the spring and summer, fortunately, we got to hold services in the garden. I’ve kept in touch with other older residents by calling, and most have seemed to be doing just fine despite the coronavirus-related isolations.
I only started working in the Lohja parish a year ago, and I have not met very many colleagues face to face. It has been a bit boring, of course. Intra-parish meetings have been held on Teams, and I think we will continue to do that, at least in part, to save travel time.
An online meeting will also remain an option, for example, if relatives live far away.
However, I would like to meet the parishioners face to face when it is safe, but certainly, an online meeting will also remain an option, for example, if relatives live far away.
For example, if a dying person wants to talk to a priest, I will definitely go to meet them and I have done so during the coronavirus period as well. I have actually been tested for coronavirus many times to ensure the safety of others.
The pre-services discussions have now taken place online through Teams, but I would also like to be present in those discussions – birth, death and marriage are such big things in a person’s life.
The wife had died suddenly and the 95-year-old widower was alone at the funeral.
Shaking hands is a natural part of a priest’s job, so hopefully that too is possible someday. The handshake is like a way to end the service I’ve been involved in, and an elbow bump, for example, doesn’t fit most situations.
I would also be happy to attend coffee events after services because people often want to chat with a priest. That is what we have been thinking with colleagues, maybe people still want to ask us for a coffee. Let’s hope so!
Perhaps the most concrete example of the challenges of the coronavirus and the work of the priest was one funeral service; the wife had died suddenly and the 95-year-old widower was alone at the funeral. He was sitting alone on the bench and I felt inadequate because I couldn’t even sit next to him.”
Pirkko Järvinen is a parish priest in the Lohja parish.