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How Families Are Finding God, Grace and Faith Outside a House of Worship

Victor Rodriguez, 55, and his wife, Juana Rodriguez, 46, members of the Church of the Ascension, a Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan, have similar worries. He and his family of six attended church in person every Sunday, but now only he and his wife watch mass on YouTube at 9 a.m. on Sundays.

Their four children, ages 14, 13, 8, and 5, used to volunteer at the church’s food pantry, which was mainly staffed by kids. But when the pandemic hit, it was no longer considered safe for them to participate and the adults took over.

“It’s real difficult,” said Victor Rodriguez, an unemployed carpenter. Even so, he added, “we have to learn to live with this right now. We have to take precautions for us and others.”

The pandemic has led some church leaders to worry about whether families will return to church when in-person services resume. Church membership has already fallen sharply over the past two decades, and an increasing number of Americans say they have no religious preference. But an April survey from Gallup, conducted during the early days of the pandemic in the United States, found that of those who were members of a church, synagogue or mosque, about half had worshipped virtually within the past seven days, and another 6 percent had worshipped in person.

Ed Brojan, 53, a member of the Chesapeake Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Baltimore, said his family has opted out of the small, in-person gatherings permitted by their church because he and his wife are nurses who want to help protect their community by remaining socially distanced. But they and their two children, 15 and 13, hold a sacrament service at home, something male members of the church can do if they become a priesthood holder.

“I definitely miss the feeling of community, the feeling of fellowship,” Brojan said, referring to the services of yore.

The lack of community also has been tough for Holley Barreto, 40, a baker and cooking instructor, as well as her husband and their two children, who are 11 and 10.

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