Chris Taylor's Digital Archive Project

Item

Title

Chris Taylor's Digital Archive Project

Description

All documents are uploaded as pdf forms, and the audio clip recordings of the three interviews are sent as mp3s. I have included the waiver for each person I interviewed, as well as both a transcription of the interview and an audio file. I also sent a brief analysis of my thoughts on the three interviews. The interviews share three people's reflections on the influence of COVID-19 within their religious communities, which include Catholic, Jewish and Mormon faiths. The project was done for a class with Patrick Mason at Utah State University.

Denomination

Catholic
Reformed Judaism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

State

Utah

Genre

oral history

extracted text

Agreement To Participate
Global Mormon COVID Stories project, and/or USU special collections
You are being asked to participate in an oral life history interview in connection with the Global Mormon
Oral History Project. You are being asked to participate in order to help document the experiences of
religious people and institutions in the time of COVID-19. You will be asked to speak about your
perspectives, thoughts, and experiences working with people of faith in the midst of this global pandemic.
The interview should last between thirty minutes to an hour, but can be adjusted as time and your
schedule permits. If you have any photographs that you would like to share that help explain some of your
experiences you may share them with the interviewer, which he can scan to add to the resource pool for
this project.
The interview will be audio taped and/or videotaped and transcribed. Gathered materials will be donated
to the Pandemic Religion digital archive, the Global Mormon COVID Stories Project at Claremont
Graduate University, and/or Special Collections at USU. They will be placed in an online digital archive
and website so that scholars and members of the public can access them.
You will receive a copy of your oral history for your own records once it is transcribed. There is no direct
compensation for participating in this oral history project. Your participation in this project is completely
voluntary. You may stop or withdraw from the interview at any time or choose not to answer any particular
question for any reason without it being held against you.
You have two options regarding confidentiality:
1) You may choose to be identified by name in any transcript or reference to the information
contained in this interview. Scholars and others may quote you or reference you by name in any
books, articles, or others works generated from this oral history project.
2) You may choose to have your name removed from your archived and digitized oral history until
2040, when your name will be reattached to it. Until 2040, scholars or others using your oral
history would not have access to your name, referring to you as “Anonymous” or assigning a
pseudonym to your oral history. After 2040 you would be identified by name in any transcript or
reference to the information contained in this interview.
___X_ I choose to be identified by name in any transcript or reference to the information contained in this
interview.

____I choose to retain anonymity until 2040, after which I will be identified by name in any transcript or
reference to the information contained in this interview.
Your signature below means that you understand the information on this form, that someone has
answered any and all questions you may have about this study, and you voluntarily agree to participate in
it.
Signature of Participant_________Shawn Fessler________________
Date_______12/14/2020________________
Printed Name of Participant___Shawn Fessler_____________________ Interviewer_Chris
Taylor_______
Chris Taylor
Digital Archive Project
Faith has often been a comforting factor for many people suffering through difficult
circumstances. As the COVID-19 pandemic began to grow ever more ominously in America,
various religious leaders knew they had a tall task at hand in strengthening their congregants
and offering a message of hope. Several adjustments were needed in order to reach out to their
members once the government decided to shut down or minimize the number of people that
could meet together in a public place. Many religious groups established, or emphasized, social
media platforms in order to help meet the need of connecting with their people. The pandemic
has impacted people in a variety of both positive and negative ways in the last few months.
Some people have strengthened their religious convictions due to increased reflection on
religious values and participation in religious rituals. Others have become more relaxed in their
religious attendance because of the availability of religious services now offered online. These
different factors have forced religious leadership to reflect on and act to strengthen their
members’ faith and encourage continued religious engagement. In this digital archive project I
have interviewed three different religious leaders to document their experiences in connection
with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first interview is with Mike Edwards. He has acted as a youth instructor for the
Catholic Church in Utah for the past several years. Mike believes that the pandemic has
exposed contact issues within his church. Once churches were closed, his leadership group
struggled at first to find correct contact information, especially for members that were not regular
participants. The pandemic forced them to reach out to members in a variety of ways in order to
update this information and stay in touch with more distant members. Another frustration that
Mike expressed, and he has observed in his congregation, is frustration stemming from
government influence in services. While he understands the need to be safe, and advocates for
measures like increased cleaning and distancing, he finds it upsetting to see lots of different

businesses stay open but have his church shut down. He argued that in the Catholic Church
their services serve a greater purpose than simply doctrinal clarification. While he has been
impressed with the ability of church leaders to post information on social media, he believes that
many of the ritualistic elements of religions can not be adequately pushed online.
In the interview with Rabbi Ari Lorge he discusses an interesting difference to political
involvement. His frustration with the government has not stemmed from their decision to shut
down the church but their limited action and inability to work together to help the states. One of
the most interesting points he made was about the Jewish principle of Pikuach Nefesh. This
core principle of Judaism encourages the sanctity of life and the need to preserve it. Even
before the state of New York officially shut down their meetings he and his rabbinical team
decided to close in-person services. The decision came because they noticed that more
vulnerable members were too willing to come to services despite the potential danger in
attending. They tried offering online platforms for these members but when they continued to
show up in person he decided to close services to protect them. As a Reformed Jew, he admits
that they are more willing to adapt services, some of which he never imagined could be
streamed online, in order to protect and support their members. Rather than worry about the
streaming services like Mike did, he has applauded the efforts to significantly ramp up online
platforms to reach a larger audience. He does admit that this is not without sacrifice. Like Mike,
he said that some people are not only grieving because of the loss of a loved one or job, but the
loss of events not taking place as they had hoped. Certain events like the bar or b’nai mitzvah
signal the introduction of Jewish youth into adulthood and are often great celebrations. These
celebrations, weddings, baby blessings etc have all needed to continue without much of the
fanfare that would normally be given to them. While he feels bad for this, he says the leadership
in his group have tried to emphasize support for the community and the need to transform the
individual home into a religious sanctuary, much as the Israelites did with the movable
tabernacle.

The final interview comes from the perspective of Shawn Fessler, a member of a local
bishopric in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He shares some of the political
frustrations of the others and mentioned that this has split some members in his congregation.
He believes the local leadership are nervous to enforce some of the political mandates such as
wearing masks for fear that some may be offended and leave. Even though this has
necessitated some uncomfortable conversations he feels there has been more positive than
negative religious impact due to the pandemic. He feels that many people have a renewed faith
in the church leadership for preparing people to establish home centered learning even before
the pandemic broke out in America. He also thinks that this has placed the responsibility of
teaching back on parents with church support rather than the other way around.
Two common thoughts and observances between all three interviews is the growth in a
sense of community and a concern for the youth of each congregation. All three emphasized the
individual work being done at the local level. Neighbors and regular church goers taking the
initiative to support others in their community. This increase in charitable giving has been a
positive observance made in each of the interviews. Shawn mentioned that when he looks at
contributions given this year, more people are choosing to give more in offerings than they had
previously. He said that he knows several people who feel they have been blessed in terms of
job security and feel a desire to pay it forward in the church. He also attributes part of this to the
lack of spending options. With people not traveling, dining out, or spending money on recreation
as much due to closures, they have more money to give to the local church. All three
interviewed believed that religion helps establish a sense of community that works to aid in
difficult times like 2020. The second common idea in all interviews was a concern for the youth,
especially teenagers. In each church, those interviewed claimed that special efforts were being
made to keep teenagers involved in religious engagement. This included a larger social media
push, charity work, and other distanced social activities.
Interview Shawn Fessler
Thu, 12/10 11:19AM • 42:11
SPEAKERS
Christopher Taylor, Shawn Fessler
Christopher Taylor ​00:05
All right, well. So, Shawn, thanks for doing this again. Shawn Fessler is a colleague of mine and a good
friend. We're going to talk a little bit about some of the experiences we've had with COVID-19, and faith
and religion, and what kind of observations we've made. So the first question that I have for you today,
Sean is, as far as like looking at the spread of COVID, in what ways do you feel like this has impacted
the way that either you or different church leaders in your congregation reach out to, to your, to your
particular ward, or your particular religious community?
Shawn Fessler ​00:52
I think it's greatly impacted. Because with uh, you know, being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter Day-Saints, we're such a close knit community, and you rely a lot on the ward, and people
within the ward, and you're serving and ministering and doing all those things. And when COVID
happened, that community or sense of community was gone immediately, we were shut down. And,
and I think that had a big impact on individuals who relied very heavily on that ward atmosphere. And
so we, you know, you had to turn to, more to your social media things to, to your Facebook to reach
out. And then I noticed also heading into that, with us, we were on Circles before the pandemic, within
the gospel and the gospel app Circles. So we're in contact there, but I saw that really increase with
people reaching out to people. And even some of the widows in our ward and widowers, they, where
they didn't understand technology, and you couldn't go technically visit them, I know they felt isolated
and really all alone during this time. And I think overall, church leaders have done really good by, you
know, saying, hey, we're going to do the mask mandate there in July, when that was introduced, to try
to stop the flow, you know, spread of this. But that's what I've seen. Go forward, now. All of a sudden,
these social media tools going forward where it's doing better. We're able to attend church and feel
comfortable going and being around people in the ward, it's on, it's on zoom, and on those various
websites that you can get for the church that puts out there for social media. And we're in contact, and
holding classes, social media wise, it's still there. But I still think there's a little bit of a disconnect from a
community overall because of, because of COVID.
Christopher Taylor ​03:24
Yeah, for sure. And it's nice that the church has been able to come up with a lot of these different kinds
of social media platforms. Just kind of with your own experiences, do you feel like there's been any in
particular that have been more effective just for you and your family?
Shawn Fessler ​03:39
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I, yes. I like the fact that I don't have to, with being at a school, I'm around it every single day, and that
scares me. This whole thing, I've had many dreams of contracting it, and then giving it on to my family
or to my grandpa and grandparents and even my in-laws. That's really freaked me out. So for me being
able to stay home every week, or you know, on Sunday, and be able to watch and participate still in the
same thing as I would if I was attending church, I think that has helped me out to stay connected. They
have, the church has put out to say, hey, it's okay, if you want to stay home. You don't have to come to
the building and and then that way, you don't have to face those people. Because there are some
people in our ward, who are non-mask-wearers, they just, they're "Trump-ers” and they don't believe in
COVID. And they have adamantly said that they're not going to wear a mask and you can't really turn
them away. So I just, so rather than have to confront that or have to worry about that it's easier just to
stay home.
Christopher Taylor ​05:05
Yeah. And like with those, like with the government mandates with masks, do you feel like the church
leadership within your own particular ward or in your stake, have they been struggling to try to like, you
know, mitigate that issue or to try to mediate? You know, do they, do you feel like they're trying to talk
to those people that refuse to wear masks? Or?
Shawn Fessler ​05:31
Yes, I think they have, they reach out to them, and I think it's really a touchy situation. I know, he's
talked to them, but hasn't like, came right out and said, Hey, you can't come to church, but you're
making others feel very uncomfortable with you guys not wearing it. And then, even with the brother,
and I think Elder Renlund came out just the other day with a strong, because he just got COVID him
and his wife, and he came out with a really strong one that said, we really need to wear the mask, and
then went back through and showed where the church, the church leaders have told us to, so I think it's
still a very political thing, even in the church. I know that people are still, they still fight on their political
side, and I see that, I think it's a hard thing for our church leaders, because you don't want to offend,
and not have those people be offended and not come back to church. So it's a hard one. It's, it's, it's
very hard, of putting it out there, but then again, people have that agency of choice. If they do it, if they
follow it, if they don't, it's just like, you know, the other things we have or are told to do.
Christopher Taylor ​07:02
Yeah. And that's, it's tough, because you see kind of this politicalization of something as simple as like
wearing a mask. And you don't want it to create this tension. But it has, you know, in a lot of different
churches, and a lot of the different people that I've interviewed. Do you see, has there been any other
pushback from ward members about any other of their regulations? As far as you know, at first, when
there was a time where we were actually all staying home or like having to sanitize or socially distance,
have there been any other government regulations that have caused that same kind of tension?
Shawn Fessler ​07:40
Well, I know. So my neighbors got four boys and a little girl, or three, three boys, sorry, three boys and
a little girl. And they are very particular to let those kids play with other kids in the neighborhood.
There's a little boy down the road, a big mask, you know, sanitized kind of thing, and they would only let
them play with him outside, he couldn't, he wasn't allowed in the house. And then around the corner,
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there's another family, and they're what I call the "Trumpers". They've got the flag out in front of their
house and, you know, and the signs and everything, and they wouldn't, they didn't wear their masks to
church. So my neighbor, when the kids came over to play, they, my neighbors have told their kids, you
cannot play with them because they don't wear masks, and we don't want that here. So I've seen that
way, you know that, that side of it, to where -and they normally- my neighbors are like the nicest
people, they go out of their way to take care of people, feed kids that they meet, I mean, they're super,
super nice, but this, my neighbor, Micah, she's, she's really anxious with this, and especially because
they got a baby. So she's overprotective of it. So I've seen that in the next house from me, she has a
little girl, and she plays outside a little bit, but not like she used to when this hit. So...
Christopher Taylor ​09:30
Yeah, that's tough, you know, and especially because, like you said in the beginning, the ward
community is really, I mean, the bulk of your actual community -your neighborhood, you know. What
you see happen kind of in church is also reflected in the way that people treat each other, you know, in
the neighborhood as well. And so it kind of spills over. It's not just kind of in the church and then you
don't see it again, it's -you see it all the time. With some of those, kind of going back to the social media
platforms, do you feel like any of these are going to be more long term because of certain success that
they've had? Or maybe because the church has recognized, you know, if there's other circumstances
where people can't make it to church, do you feel like this is going to be something that will become
more than just a COVID phenomenon?
Shawn Fessler ​10:25
Yes. I think this is like this idea where you can be home and engaged in a church, you can watch
church, and, and you're watching it using the social media platform, and I have felt the spirit just as
strong as attending church as I have at home. And so now once COVID's over and that, would I stay
home and watch church? No, I would go just because of, you know, that's where I think sometimes you
need to be, but I mean, for elderly, or handicapped, for, I think this has opened up the idea, and to get
more people who maybe have those anxieties of coming together in groups, or things like that, I think it
really has opened the ideas, and opened church leaders to say, Hey, we can, we can we get more
people involved by using this platform. And not, and I mean, our numbers, because I'm, you know, I'm a
ward clerk, our numbers are not too far off from where they were in attendance. Normally, I mean, our
attendance is where we get about 54%. And we've been up to the highest 56, as low as 52%. So really,
we haven't dropped off in attendance. So people are still, I mean, you always want more, but I think,
you know, people are still using, we have more people on, on the broadcast, the church broadcasts,
than do actually going to church right now. So I think it will, I think also opening up, I think Circles, we
use Circles in our ward a lot, that platform of communicating, getting things out. I guess I don't know if
it's, I don't have Facebook, so I don't know, you know, you send messages, people respond. And I saw
some really good things from that side of it also, to keep people connected. So I think there's some
really good things come about, as bad as COVID has been, I think there have been those positive
things, like you said, the social media platforms, I don't think they're just going to go away. I think
people will adapt to it. And they'll continue to use them.
Christopher Taylor ​13:13

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Yeah, there's certainly a lot of positives that's come out of it. As far as like, reaching out to people that
were usually difficult in hearing from, or opening those channels for those that might not be able to
come, or had a difficulty in coming. So those are some of the positive things. Have you noticed any, or
are there any worries that you have about the negative consequences of having more of a social media
style kind of church?
Shawn Fessler ​13:41
Well, the one downside is I can think is people get complacent. That they -you aren't able to serve
because, a lot with the church is just service, and right now you're not able to do that. So I think you get
out of habit of doing it. I mean, still people are serving, but you're not as, so if you stay at home church,
and then you have a calling where you're supposed to be at church, that would be a conflict. So I think
that's -those are things we're going to deal with in the next year. And also, getting people if we do say,
hey, we would like everybody to come back (outside of being sick or handicapped or something like
that), to come back, I think that might be a negative impact for people to come back to church, for the
trust issues and also just that they're out of habit of going to church, you know. Maybe they hit here or
there on Zoom, or, hey, we're on a drive up the canyon, we can Zoom it on our phone and listen to it,
but, you know, so I think if that all sudden you came in and said hey, no, you can't do this. That could
be a negative impact. I know it's both been negative and positive -like on our missionary work.
Missionary work is totally flipped on how we do missionary work right now. I think it's been negative
because I think some, some kids, some young, you know, kids can't get out, they want to be active.
And for them to be home just working the computer and talking to people and doing Zoom meets, have
been a negative effect. But it also has been really good because they've been able to reach people
where they wouldn't have been able to reach, but you have a different person to be able to sit on a
Zoom call, as to out walking around, meeting people. So I think some of those issues are going to have
to be worked out. But I think the missionary -with them able to do Zoom meetings in the wards is
positive because we've done that with them, with Google meets and stuff like that with the missionaries,
and, and talking with them to get equal. So that's a positive. And also then, like I said, a negative
because I know some young men don't want to go out on a mission just to sit in a room and be on a
computer.
Christopher Taylor ​16:05
Yeah it's like if I'm gonna go, then I want to go be somewhere, be with people. And otherwise, it seems
like you're at a call center.
Shawn Fessler ​16:14
Yeah, yeah.
Christopher Taylor ​16:16
So that's really interesting, and I would agree with a lot of what you said about the idea of like this
complacency and worry. Has your -like you said -your the word clerk, has the bishopric or the ward
leadership, have they mentioned anything about kind of in anticipation for that, what they hope to do? Is
there going to be a way to ease people back in or, or have some lessons about, you know, the need to
come back or, you know, if there's been any talk about that?

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Shawn Fessler ​16:46
Well, we talked. There hasn't been anything to like, when is the right time yet? Because I think the
vaccination. We just had our bishopric meeting last night. And as we were discussing this, the
vaccination coming out, we probably won't be, we'll stay on what we're doing probably till next
September, possibly October, to once everybody's vaccinated and had the vaccine, you know, and so I
mean, that was, our Bishop said, probably plan on the way we're doing everything right now, up until
possibly October, or until the next General Conference that we'll be doing, the way we're doing now. So
I think that's, but I know, that's exactly what you said, move forward, how and what to do. I think that'll
be, some things'll come down through Conference and the Brethren, and I think they are definitely right
now discussing that. But the laid out plan has not come yet, because they're still waiting to even think
about it. The normal, the normal person who is not high risk or anything like that, what are they saying?
They're saying to like July, that you would have your first dose? And then you got to wait 21 days after
that to get the second dose? So you're well into possibly September or October.
Christopher Taylor ​18:23
Yeah.
Shawn Fessler ​18:25
That's at least our Bishop -we alluded to that last night.
Christopher Taylor ​18:30
Do you know is that something that you've just heard, even among, like your neighbors and other kind
of just regular members of the church? If they have expressed any kind of concern or concerns about
kids being home and missing out on going to Primary or young men's activities or, or anything like that?
Shawn Fessler ​18:47
I know. You bring up the Primary side, I know that that's an issue. Our primary president, she, she put
together a little thing and had all the teachers run over, but yeah, it's that contact, put a little treat thing
in a little basket together for the kids, you know, of course store bought stuff, and, they did that, but I
think, you know, it's putting the responsibility back on the parents. And our church -for a long time -has
been the one to be the teacher and then the parents were a lot of just the enforcers. Just kind of oh,
yeah, remember that, oh, yeah, that's easy to do. And now we've flipped. Parents are the ones that
need to teach the children. And the church is just to reinforce what the parents are teaching. And I think
that's a dynamic that's really, we're going to see in the church going forward. That more family learn
more of the gospel principles within the home, and not so much as just that, like you said, all
community, everything you do goes through the church, because we don't have those activities to do
anymore. But we're still doing them. Bishop Anderson, he's done it for the last four years, he calls it
Bishop baskets. So he just takes names, we sit down as a ward council and write down names of
people, whether they're just having a bad week or bad, whatever, you know, welfare needs, or just had
a baby or something like that, and put 50 names of Ward members that you can think of, and then we
take around a fruit basket to all of these ward members. And so that's something that he's done to keep
that sense of community togetherness. But, outside of that, it's really difficult because, like I said, we
were really close as a ward, we would do weekly, monthly activities down at the park during the
summer, where you just come down. One time, we did a dessert or one time, we did you know, just not
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a meal, but just just some appetizers and stuff. And we did it once a month and you just went down to
the park and just socialized with people and the kids played at the park, and see with COVID all that's
kind of ended, you know. All that in close, personal, interpersonal relationships that you had.
Christopher Taylor ​21:36
Yeah, for sure. With those -like you mentioned, like the kids, whether they're like young kids or teenage
kids, do you feel that this pandemic has affected like any particular age group harder than another one
in terms of like their faith or their interactions with church or church engagement?
Shawn Fessler ​21:56
I think where we've seen is the older kids, you know, your, your 14 to 18 year olds. I think they are the
ones that are struggling with it. Now, that's just what I've seen, like their attendance for Sunday school
and stuff isn't as high as what it has been in the past. Those meetings also, and to get them there, at
that time, I think that's also an issue that those kids have. And I've seen that. I haven't been around a
lot of the primary kids, I know from just from my neighbors, to see my neighbors, that they're, I mean,
when you're a parent of younger kids, I would say it's easier to bring them together to have a quick little
lesson. Rather than to say to the teenager who has schoolwork, a job, or sports or whatever is taking
their time, to come together to say, Hey, we got to get together and learn this gospel principle or, you
know, it's 10:30am, hey, get up, you got to go to priesthood on Zoom. I know that they're, I think, and
also, the older kids, I think there's a real mental toll on them. Because they want to hang out with their
friends and they want to -but part of them says, oh, nothing will happen, and the other part of them,
they're like, oh, this could be scary, you know. So I know, even with school issues, tie over in school,
because some parents are very strict, so when they come home, they stay at home, where other
parents are letting kids go wherever they want. So I'm, you know, sometimes kids hear, oh, well, so and
so's are doing it. So I know, that creates an issue. I would say the teenagers. But then again, I don't
have young kids. I mean, that'd be the more adverse side of the young kids. But they're saying the
younger ones through this, are seeing even mental health issues arising because their normal little
structures are so different now. So...
Christopher Taylor ​24:17
Yeah, for sure, you know, just like emotionally, and they've talked a lot about, you know, just
depression and the anxiety that's kind of built up especially around little kids that don't quite understand
the whole, you know, economics of, you know, possibly parents losing jobs or being stressed out about
work, or anything like that has certainly taken a toll. For those kinds of people, and I would think
especially among teenagers, you know, religion and faith can be such an anchor for them. With the
church leadership in your particular ward, have you noticed, do they make any kind of special efforts to
reach them and stress kind of the need for religion in times like this? Or are there any particular stories
or lessons that they draw from, to try to promote faith in a time of trial like this?
Shawn Fessler ​25:13
Yeah, our Bishop, he, again, I go back to that Circles thing -the app. He puts out something to the
youth, he tries to do it three or four times a week, and reach out to them; he does an amazing job to get
the kids. He's even to those kids where parents aren't in the best situation. He's tried to get out and
create activities for those kids to be involved in. And faith promoting stories... I've seen just with our
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kids, we have seen a difference. Some, like you said, grabbed a hold of the gospel, because of the time
we're in and seeing some great strides. In noticing because I do the finance and help out sometimes
with the money side of it, last night, I noticed that one of the young kids had paid his tithing, but also
had paid a fast offering. And that, it's really one of those faith stories that here's a kid who has this that
he's putting into the fast offerings when not necessarily does a teenager have to put into fast offerings,
because that goes with his parents. But I thought, wow, that's pretty strong for him to do that. So I know
there's those issues where faith is promoting; those kids are gravitating to the gospel, and hanging onto
it, because that's something that's solid, and is not changing, it's still the same where everything else is
chaotic, they can find the same peace there. I've noticed that with our youth, and our -again- I tie that
back to the bishop. He is always in contact with the youth. And our other Bishopric leaders, they are
always contacting the kids and, you know, through texts, through calls, through working through the
presidents of the organizations, and they really rely heavily on those presidents. They go see this
person, or go talk to this person, or how we talk to this person is this, you know, have you seen this
person at school? So I think those activities are happening in our ward, that I've seen. From the youth, I
think they're struggling, but I also think they're great, or they're grabbing hold of the gospel, the ones
that are. You know what I mean? Like, the stronger ones are getting stronger, and the ones that are
being left behind, they're trying to bring them along.
Christopher Taylor ​28:19
Yeah, and that's tough to work with, with a dynamic where you have somewhere you see so much
success, and then you've got others that are really struggling and what kind of message do you give or,
you know, that there are such mixed feelings about the whole situation. I was just thinking as you were
talking about that, I'm sure for families where the whole family is a part of the church that that makes it
easier to jump on the meetings or to organize who's going to go watch priesthood versus, you know,
primary or whatever it is. But have you noticed are there any issues with part-member families where
maybe you've got youth that come from homes where they're the only member or where, you know,
maybe their family is not as active as they are? And has that influenced them very much and trying to
reach out to them?
Shawn Fessler ​29:13
Yeah, we have a few really spotty that they are able to get on, especially youngers. We had a younger
young woman, she's probably, I want to say she's probably 13, and then she had a younger brother
that was 11, that was just recently baptized before COVID hit. And I know it's really hard for them to get
on weekly. Just for that reason- mom and dad are non-members, and they're out doing something and
so because of the lack of devices, they miss out on something. That is a real concern for the bishop
and the bishopric. And to reach out to those kids to make sure they get to their meetings. Even for the
youth, to have their meetings, to get together for young men and young women activities, even the
activities -some of them have been online, so not everybody can get onto that same point. So I have
seen a drop-off there. That's one that the bishopric talked about, at length, exactly what you said there,
again those kids that were a real issue.
Christopher Taylor ​30:45

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Yeah. With other difficulties related to COVID, with people being out of work, or temporarily struggling,
do you feel like your church -what kind of efforts have been made to try to reach out and help those
people that are, you know, maybe a need that have been out of work?
Shawn Fessler ​31:10
You know, we've got a few families that we help, especially one family, the guy had a stroke. And so
he's home, but he's in a bed, and he has nourished care and everything like that. So we take care of his
family, on a monthly basis, and a lot is done there. What is really crazy is the need for welfare in our
ward, because people aren't spending and going and doing as much, the people who have, have been
giving more generously. So we're able to take care of more people. And we met the needs of our ward,
which, a lot of times we have to rely on the state to bring money in and the church to bring money in to
help, because we've gone over, you know, you just have to help them out. But we've been able to
sustain our own effort, because of the generosity of the other members. It's actually been a really cool
thing to see that dynamic. And to see people reaching out to people. We had a family, their son was on
a mission. And he didn't get his endowments when he first left, and he's up in Washington. And they
couldn't afford to pay the house payment and the plane ticket up to see their son, and we had a
member of the ward step up and just pay their plane tickets for them so they could do that, because
they said this is a once in a lifetime thing for you. So little tender mercies like that are going on. What
you're seeing is that, hey, we have a need, and our members are stepping up and saying, hey, we'll
take care of that need. Where last year, at this time, it wasn't the same. And also, our welfare needs are
lower. I don't know how to explain it. We don't have as many families in need right now as we did even
last year, at this time, because they're being taken care of by ward members. It's like the ward's taking
care of the ward. It's really a cool dynamic. I can't explain it, I mean I can because of COVID, you know,
you're not spending as much. You're not going out to the movies, you're not going on vacations, or only
little vacations like whoa, let's go up to Park City for the weekend. So the more affluent people in our
ward are giving very generously. You're seeing it and if there's a need, somebody needs something, we
take care of it. We had a little family, the mom and two kids, And, you know, kids grow and the one kid,
when he was baptized at nine, they bought him a suit. But he's outgrown his suit. And so we had some
ward members step up and buy him and his sister some church clothes -got him a brand new suit. It's
things like that that are going on. Yeah, the welfare needs are really being taken care of.
Christopher Taylor ​34:55
That's really awesome. I never even thought about that. It hasn't come up in any of my other interviews,
the idea that in part, because there are a lot of people that still have had stable jobs and income, they're
not going to a lot of the recreational places, because a lot of it's shut down. So they have that extra
money, and they're choosing to use that to support those that are in need, probably more so than they
normally would have. That's really awesome.
Shawn Fessler ​35:24
Yeah.
Christopher Taylor ​35:25
And is that something or was that something promoted by the church? Or do you feel like this is more
from the bottom up -they just kind of "saw a need, fill the need" attitude?
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Shawn Fessler ​35:35
I really think it's our community. Here in West Point, this area that I'm in, if there is something that they
really need, we're very, very cool at putting down. When I lived in North Ogden, I didn't feel that same
way. There wasn't that sense of community, it was kind of like you mind your own. If the bishop comes
and tells you, you go do it. But since I've lived out here, even over in Clinton, it wasn't even as much as
the area here in West Point. And I mean, when we lived in Clinton, same thing, you would help your
neighbor, but not like this. I mean, if somebody's tearing down a tree, it's not unlikely that some three or
four other members of the ward are jumping in and helping out for that. We had a non-member, his
house flooded, about a year ago, and we had a ton of people show up to help, and he was like, "I can't
believe this, I didn't know all of you lived around me, and would come to my house, just to help me out".
And they were turning people away, because we had so many people just there to help, you know, to
rip out carpet, get it down. So I think it's our area. I'm not saying it's not anywhere but I think maybe
within the church as a whole I think there are probably other areas where the same thing happens, it's
just not widely spread or talked about.
Christopher Taylor ​37:23
That's really awesome. Does your Bishop, does he try to bring up those kinds of stories, just to
demonstrate a faith promoting experience for the ward? Or do you feel like a lot of these are just kind of
understood around the community just because it is so close knit?
Shawn Fessler ​37:43
He keeps them pretty quiet. I mean, he's pretty humble as he does that. He knows the people who were
involved in it, and knows that that's going on. I mean, you know, there are those who know that are
doing it, and I really feel that people also, that the ward knows that if they did need help, that the Lord's
there to help out.
Christopher Taylor ​38:16
That's awesome, man. Hey, well just to wrap up our interview here, and I really again appreciate all
your help with this, I think it'll be something fun, you know, in the future when people are studying the
effects of COVID, to be able to look at archives like this and you can see what regular people like you
and I think. But is there any kind of final idea or thought that you had that you wanted to share about
your perceptions of faith and COVID that you wanted to touch on that we didn't get a chance to?
Shawn Fessler ​38:48
I would say it's challenged my faith in the fact that I am horrified and have strong anxiety to be around
it. This is the first time in my life I didn't want to teach school back in August. After our meeting, (you
know that one meeting we had with the COVID where they told us everything that's going to take
place), I seriously went back to my room and called my wife and said, "I don't want to teach anymore", it
really freaked me out. And it was, you know, I had to really think about it... there's meaning to
everything that we go through, and there's a process. I'm not saying the Lord sent COVID I think the
Lord prepared us to be ready for this pandemic. And so it strengthened my faith to fall back on the
normalcy of the church, to serve the church in general, to know that we have a prophet that was leading
and guiding us before this pandemic hit, that he was preparing us before, long before this. And he also
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has along the way given us ways to get through it. That has strengthened my faith. Yeah, I still have
anxiety. But I know, this isn't the end. And there probably are more to come and more the closer, you
know, the further we go closer to the end of your life, other things may happen. But I think it's
strengthened my testimony of the gospel, because the principles of faith, hope, charity, are everlasting.
And a pandemic can't stop those, you know, the work has gone forward. We've just had to adapt. And
that has strengthened my testimony too, to see. I can sit in on a Zoom meeting and still feel the spirit of
the Lord because the message is true. And it doesn't matter, it's true. And so that strengthened my
testimony through this. I feel I'm a stronger member of the church through this and to see the workings
of the structure of the church also, that's a big one too, how the church, brethren have organized, put us
together, and every step of the way, you're not left in the cold. We've adapted and created something
new to move forward, like the things we've talked about, the positivities, I think we talked about, and
they count those things as positive, which well exceeded the negative of the pandemic.
Christopher Taylor ​42:05
Yeah, that's awesome. Hey, thanks again so much, man.
Shawn Fessler ​42:08
No problem.

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Interview with Rabbi Lorge
Tue, 12/8 12:45PM • 49:28
SPEAKERS
Rabbi Lorge, Christopher Taylor
Christopher Taylor ​00:14
So, Rabbi Lorge, thanks for joining me again. So one of the first questions that I have. Again the
purpose of the interview is just to get a feel, and an understanding for how people have witnessed
changes within their own congregations or how they see people express their faith maybe in different
ways due to COVID and the impact that it's had. So the first question I've got for you is just with the
spread of COVID, in what kind of ways have you or your congregation tried to reach out to one another
to involve each other in the religious community?
Rabbi Lorge ​01:00
So, our congregation has about 2500 families so it's a pretty big congregation. And, you know, we tend
to gather throughout the week during normal times for classes and religious school worship, all kinds of
different programs, so a lot of that really had to shut down when we realized, you know, that this
pandemic was spreading. And some of those opportunities have kind of translated into our ability to do
some of that work online. You know we've got -very quickly- our religious school up and running
electronically so classes are still able to happen and our youth are still able to be engaged in that way.
The head always streamed our services out to the communities and beyond. So we were able to kind of
shift that and to outfit all of us at home with different technologies and you know, each week we got a
little bit more adapted, adding lighting or microphones to try to get, you know, to try to increase the
quality of our services to a little bit more approximate what people were used to worshiping with us. But,
you know, I think some of the outreach has been most important and has been more personal, like one
to one outreach, you know, a lot of the community ends up being pretty isolated, or feeling very shut in.
And, you know, we had a small subset of folks who you might categorize as shut-ins, right, people who
couldn't really leave their homes beforehand, due to illness or different things, you know, we had a
pretty direct way of how to identify those people and attend to them and try to minister to them. When
that all of a sudden becomes most of your congregations, it's more difficult so I'd say within about a
month, we were able to train and identify leaders in the congregation, who were going to serve as, or to
cover congregate to congregate calls, and we basically had a group of very involved members who
ended up calling every other member family. So we've done about two to three rounds of those calls,
everybody in the community in the last eight months or so has been called by another member at least
two times just to check in and find out, you know, are you still living where you're living, how are you
doing, you know, are there pastoral needs, you know, are there more urgent housing financial needs
that are going on, you know, what's going on in your family, just trying to check in and get a sense of
how people are doing. And that can be done or even other ways that we ended up being able to
interact with those folks or connect with those folks, and we've started now around specific clergy calls
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from our rabbinic and tentorial staff to the members who were able to kind of, you know, identifiy folks
who don't tend to show up a lot or haven't gotten so much attention and, you know, tend to be more, for
lack of a better word, peripheral members of the congregation, we're reaching out to them in another
round of calls just to kind of follow up and see how they're doing. So those have been some of the
more, I'd say important engagement, and then a lot of the other stuff we've mostly been trying to just
kind of get back to where we were, you know, life cycles, trying to figure out how to continue to have life
cycle events happen -weddings, you know, baby namings, b'nai mitzvah, things like that that would
otherwise happen, you know we just had to very quickly find new ways to make all of that work. So I
think it's both like the extra outreach that we're having to do during a pandemic because we're
concerned about our people and we want to make sure that they're doing all right. And then, all the stuff
that would be happening if it was regular, you know, regular life that we're just trying to keep going. So
people have that sense of normalcy -marking time, grieving, celebrating, the kinds of things you usually
turn to a religious community for.
Christopher Taylor ​05:10
Yeah, and there's a lot of things in there that you mentioned that, that have come up in some of the
interviews, and things that I didn't even necessarily think of initially, like I think when a lot of people
think about religious services they just think of teaching the doctrine, listening to some kind of sermon.
And the more people that I've talked to, it seems like, you know, they expressed although that's a part
of it, and that's something that can be more readily kind of rectified by some kind of online platform, it's
those kind of life ordinances that you're talking about, you know, the kind of rituals and those kinds of
things that you do that have really been difficult. So it's good to see you've been able to reach out in a
lot of different ways. With using social media, and it sounds like you said that you, you did use some of
this before, and that's really good you had kind of that, that leg up on it. Do you feel like this is
something that's going to be more involved in your, your community and your synagogue going
forward?
Rabbi Lorge ​06:04
Yeah, I mean, so, yes. Our services have always been, you know, streamed out through our website,
we had been on a cable TV channel called the Jewish Broadcasting Service, which is a national cable
channel if it's carried. We run Facebook Live, YouTube, stuff like that, so our services, and every now
and then some classes and lectures, get, you know, pumped out to the world, but we dramatically
ramped that up. In the last eight months, we started having a daily, we called it "coffee with clergy".
Each different clergy person, (we have about 9 or 10 rabbis and cantors on staff and different roles),
but all of us basically signed up once a week or so or, you know, every other week to basically run a
program of our choosing. And that ended up getting piped out so we just started having many many
more touchstones during the day that people can kind of come and be a part of. The other thing is
people, there's nowhere to do that but in our homes, because here in New York City, we were really
locked down for a while, you know, you could go out for groceries or events, the pharmacy, but that
was pretty much it, unless you were an essential worker. So, I mean, people were just in homes for lack
of a better way to explain it. People were in homes for worship and they were in homes for these
programs, so there was a -I think there was like a sense of intimacy and getting a chance to know us,
there was more and we ended up having to kind of produce more content. So, I like pickling produce
and so I did like a whole pickling show that had several episodes to it, teaching people how to reduce
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food waste and kind of make sure that they're able to kind of keep fresh produce around longer, they're
not so much fresh after you pickle it. I'd say like, you know, some of it is I think there is going to be
more content that we put out in the world, and some of it is also trying to think about, yeah, I'd say, you
know, so we may have been putting our worship services out for people to watch, but our primary
responsibility we always felt was to the congregation who was in front of us and we had, you know,
500-700 people on Friday night worship service. So that was our community, and people who are
homebound or in hospitals or for whatever reason were watching us on a screen, that is great, but we
plan services for the congregation who is in front of us. Now that the whole congregation has spent
almost a full year just engaging with us over a screen, you know, we were wondering who's gonna
prefer the internet. Our audience is bigger than it was because we do have the numbers. We have
some rough numbers that are, you know, our viewership is about. So, you know, how do we create a
hybrid model that honors the folks who are going to be walking into our building and the folks who
aren't. And how do we program for both communities, you know, we don't have a membership for folks
who aren't in our, in our direct area also, because I think one of the main things you know you come to
a religious community for is pastoral care, life cycle moments that we can't really do -some of those
things we've learned actually you can do from a distance, apparently, you know, weddings, baby
namings, and I never thought I'd do any of that distantly over a screen and yet I have in the last several
months, but you know, we've done a lot of funerals in the last few months and that's one you just can't
do from a distance. I think we're wrestling with how this works in a hybrid world of technology being
able to connect us in unusual ways.
Christopher Taylor ​09:43
I was gonna say, especially with, you know, those kinds of life cycle events. I think those would be
what's really tough to try to do over, over a distance like this and it sounds like you've, you've come up
with a lot of different solutions to try to assist with that, which are the ones that you feel like have been
the toughest, and you kind of touched on the idea of funerals and especially the, the intimate nature of,
and personal nature of, I would say like a funeral, is not something that you ideally want to do over like
a zoom meeting something like this.
Rabbi Lorge ​10:21
Yeah, I think, you know, it's definitely been some of the hardest work in the last several months, you
know. New York was an epicenter for a while, and we had a lot of folks in our community who died from
COVID. And, you know, we as a community have tried often to reframe things in a positive light, right,
there are silver linings to some of this, that, you know, are worth noting but there is just some stuff that
feels like a loss, and death and mourning is some of that. I mean, it's really hard not to be in the room
with the mourners, it's really hard not to be able to hug these people who you know and care about and
you can see are, you know, so much of Jewish mourning practices are about ensuring that people who
are grieving are not alone. For seven days we're supposed to surround these people in their homes and
show up for them and show them that they're not alone that we care for them, and you know, no matter
what they're feeling, their community's there. And, you know, we're not able to do that practice of shivah
that practice of kind of going into a mourner's home for seven days and surrounding them. So we try to
approximate some of that stuff over zoom. But there's significant chunks of time where mourners are
alone, where we're not able to be around them. We're able to set up some times over zoom to kind of
do some of that work, but it's hard, and I know as clergy we feel like that's a loss I know from mourners,
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they are hungry for that and they, you know they try to do as much as they can that's meaningful and I
know that for our community it's hard, you know, When somebody would otherwise show up to their
house with a meal or something, and try to spend some time with them, and the most you can do is pop
onto the zoom screen and, you know, you can't really schmooze or kibitz or, you know, share life, it's
one person talking at a time otherwise you get that cacophony on zoom.
Christopher Taylor ​10:21
Yeah.
Rabbi Lorge ​11:36
So it's been hard but at the same time for funerals, or memorial services, people are able to come on
from all over the world in ways that they haven't, right? There's the ability to kind of gather community in
a larger way that we wouldn't have otherwise done so there are ways we try to leverage a technology
for the good even though it's been such a limitation around, especially, definitely, morning.
Christopher Taylor ​12:50
Yeah, that's great that you've been able to come up with a lot of different, not necessarily solutions but,
you know, ways in which you can -like you said- approximate you know the way that things had been
before. So you can give that feeling of, you know, comfort that religion is so good at doing. And there's
such an expectation that religion in these difficult times can be kind of that support. For being in New
York, talk a little bit more about so with, like with restrictions and so it's been really just coming all
straight up just shut down for you then, like what are, what is allowed, or has been typically allowed for
you and your congregation?
Rabbi Lorge ​13:28
It's been a moving target, and I think, one of our guiding principles is pikuach nefesh. So much of
Judaism and it's practices centers on the idea that life is the most sacred thing it's a gift and we have to
do everything we can to value that gift and so we ended up shutting down the congregation to become
a virtual congregation earlier than the city mandated it. But, you know, originally at the very outset it
was trying, saying, you know, look here the at-risk categories of people the CDC and others are telling
us about you know if you're over 65, if you have these kinds of health conditions, you know, it sounds
like you're more at risk, we would encourage you not to show up to services. Service is a big gathering
of hundreds of people and as much as we'd love for you to be there just doesn't sound safe and we
urge you to be at home. And we communicated that in the next week, you know, and people who are
over 65 and with health issues, because we know these people, we see them in the congregation, and
we say, "you know, what are you doing here?", and they said, "well, you know, nothing's gonna stop me
from being part of my community". And we felt at that point like we had a responsibility to stop because
if they weren't going to stop on, you know, on their own, we got to, you got to do something to kind of
make sure that we're not hampering anything from happening, or being a help. So we shut down the
congregation to become a virtual one. And then, you know, over the course of March, April, New York
wrestled with a bunch of different measures, but eventually when they announced that the city was, that
New York City was going on pause and they called it. And basically gatherings were pretty much
restricted, only essential workers were allowed out. You could go get groceries, you could go get
medication, things like that. But, but otherwise you know you really weren't supposed to be leaving so
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we did services remotely from our homes we did all of our programming remotely from our homes.
Eventually, and I don't remember exactly what month it was in, we were allowed to have 10 folks
gathered in a space at a time. And we started doing Friday night services, which for us has always
been the most largely attended service, it's when our Sabbath starts. We were able to kind of bring our
staff back into the building so we would basically have the clergy meeting services from the empty
sanctuary. All our people of our community were still in their homes watching but we were able to do
things like sing together, or, you know, just produce the service in a slightly different way because we
were there in place. So we started doing that and then by the time we went to the High Holidays, we
were able to have more staff involved. We still didn't feel comfortable with our community coming in and
still haven't right now. New York would allow us, since we're a religious institution to have a percentage
of our total occupancy in the building. But that would, you know if we did what the law suggests we
could, I think we could have something like 300 people in our building, which to us just doesn't really
seem prudent, right? And if we, if we can do it, it doesn't mean we should do it, and as we, you know,
and we've had a lot of conversations in the team about this, and you know we argue about it and we
debate it, because you know it's it's hard to know what's right or wrong right now but I think at the end
of the day majority of the team right now has just felt that if we know it's safer, and we're still feeling that
we're able to connect with people, you know, it's better to, you know, as staff we can go in and do that
but you shouldn't be gathering 300 people or even, you know, 100 people. What we have done is for
funerals, for B'nai mitzvah, for baby naming, for those kinds of lifecycle events again, we're allowing 20
people to be in the sanctuary masked, distanced, and we'll perform those ceremonies in those
situations. But, we're pretty strict on that limit. What's difficult is, there's no uniform policy other than the
maximum allowed. So, what we're doing is going to be different from the synagogue, or church, or
mosque, etc. These present their own problems, as you can imagine, for one, if such-and-such of our
nation allows 100 people, where we can easily have 100 people in our event, and that kind of thing, so
that's where it becomes a little trickier.
Christopher Taylor ​18:16
Yeah. Sorry about that announcement.
Rabbi Lorge ​18:18
That's okay, I think my son's babbling too.
Christopher Taylor ​18:20
That's okay. Yeah, that's really interesting. I've been interested in talking to some other people about
just how congregations and people of faith have reflected on things like the government's
responsibilities in or how we respond to, you know, stipulations placed on our community and it sounds
like that's something that you guys have talked a lot about. And I'm sure that's something that's really
tough. Do you feel like it's created any kind of tension or as you know like a rabbi, do you feel like you
have to kind of step in and try to guide the congregation in understanding this is the reason why we are
going to support these measures or how we're going to support these measures?
Rabbi Lorge ​18:59
You know, I think at the end of the day people are really trying to come at it from a good place and I
think there's a lot of goodwill. We try to be very deliberate about explaining our reasonings behind
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different choices because at the end of the day now there are choices and not the government's
anymore, you know, it was a lot easier when we could say, well the state says this. But there have been
times when there's tension in the team as we're trying to discern what we think is the best. You know
we're all bringing a sense of worry about us and our own families, we're worried about the
congregation, we're worried about our community members, and those things all collide and then there
is a level of tension sometimes between us and, you know, different families who are maybe looking to
celebrate or mark moments. So 20 would mean, you know, somebody might say, well, 20 people might
mean "I'm able to come with my immediate family and grandparents, and then, you know, these aunts
and not these uncles you know how am I supposed to make these choices?" You know, I feel for them I
mean it's difficult and I, you know, we're, you know, we say we're mourning that too, we would want
your entire family to be here in this moment I mean for funerals too. You know these people feel very
close to the deceased, how can we tell them they can't come? But, you know, we're doing what we're,
you know we're trying to create guidelines that are sensible to create an ability to mark these moments
still and we get guidance from people in our community who are hospital administrators and doctors, so
we also are trying to ground it in something objective and scientific as much as possible. And what
we've said throughout is that we're going to, as a community, at least in our congregation, we're going
to err on the side of safety. We'd rather err on the side of safety than err on the side of, you know,
aloofness with the regulations and then ultimately feeling like maybe we, you know, in the worst case
scenario, you know, created a permissive atmosphere that allowed something to happen. So we'd
rather people be angry at us right now for this then than anything else.
Christopher Taylor ​21:16
And I'm sure that's so tough, you know, but it's good to hear that your congregation, that they have
such a -generally speaking- like a positive attitude towards it they're coming at it from a good place
because it's not always been the case from what I've been talking to other people for.
Rabbi Lorge ​21:29
Yeah, I mean, look, you know it's not just the impossible choices that people are having to make but a
lot of people, I don't know, I think there has been a natural grieving and mourning process, not
necessarily for people, not only for people who have passed away -a lot of people have passed awaybut I mean so many of these families are are mourning for things that they pictured happening a certain
way in their family, you know. And it's not happening that way but it could be things that they've
imagined for decades or you know since their child was born, they pictured would be the way it was and
the way that it had been just last year, and coming to terms with that is really hard, you know. So, you
know, even, even when people are a little less reasonable than we hope they'd be, I feel for them and I
know where they're coming from. But, but, yeah, there have been some hard conversations around it
for sure.
Christopher Taylor ​22:23
Have you noticed it, does anybody try to like put off I mean obviously you can't put off like a funeral, but
like, weddings, or maybe baby blessings, or there's some of those kinds of events you see people
trying to put off hoping that in a month or in a couple weeks or you know whatever it is it then things are
all gonna be better magically, you know? Do you see people trying to push it off? Because like you

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said, you know, it's not just mourning those that are gone it's those lost opportunities and I could see
maybe people trying to push that off.
Rabbi Lorge ​22:50
There were a lot of weddings, that I had scheduled with couples, working with couples, doing some
marriage prep with them and they had dates and they ended up, many of them, -I've seen different
things. A lot of them move the date, push the date out hoping to kind of have the wedding that they
pictured. Slowly over time, a lot of those couples have come back and said, you know, look, at this
point, we just want to get married, we really love each other, like the circumstances around you don't
matter so much, let's just have the ceremony, and we'll figure out the celebration later. That's starting to
happen a lot more. You know, originally it was everyone was just pushing the date out and saying, the
world's gonna get back to normal, we'll do it then. And so we're seeing folks come back. The piece
that's hard for us is we have a lot of b'nai mitzvah students. And there's just not a way for us to
reschedule the numbers we have. We have somewhere between three and four, b'nai mitzvah
students, a weekend. So there's not a lot of wiggle room to move people around. And it's one of those
things where the tradition says you become 12 and 13, like, you know, another day you become a bar
bat mitzvah the day you reach maturity in the Jewish community so you're beholden to all the
commandments and observances and, you know, the nicest way to mark that is by taking on some of
the most exciting ones, which for us is reading Torah. But, but you don't need to do that in order to have
that coming-of-age moment. So, you know, we've been trying to explain to our community and reframe
it for our community that, you know, there is something to be said about resiliency, and continuing to
choose life and to choose happiness and joy in hard moments, you know. There are much darker
chapters in Jewish history where Jews have become, not often because that's a relatively modern thing
but where Jews have come of age, you know, and haven't had all of the beautiful trappings that we're
lucky enough to have in America, around services being out in the open and, you know, to be a part of
the fabric of the community and so it's hard in the pandemic but but it's not unprecedented for our
people. So, you know, that's been helpful for some, but yeah, we try not to delay a lot of this stuff if we
can avoid it.
Christopher Taylor ​25:19
Yeah, eventually you're gonna delay it too long. It's like there's only so much you can do. I like what you
were saying about you know like, the Jewish people have been obviously through historically, just so
many different horrible, you know, events and been able to show the resilience. Do you feel like
especially in a time like this are there particular stories that you find yourself turning to or, or moments
in Jewish history that you turn to when you share with your congregation, kind of these uplifting
moments that kind of give hope?
Rabbi Lorge ​25:49
Yeah, since the beginning of the pandemic, you know people... It's the moment that begs people to
start asking larger questions about themselves whether they were, you know, tuned into a religious
community or not, you know, and I think we've definitely seen people searching for some kind of
meaning making, you know, to be had in all of this. You know, we try to address it in sermons we try to
address it in service we try to address it in different ways. We have, you know, Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur are major holidays. This year in September and October, so you know right in the midst of
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everything, and we revamped a lot of those services to try to see and tap into some of those kinds of
things, and I wrote a whole opening to our holiday services which our senior Rabbi delivered, which
was kind of like a welcome into the space, and the sanctuary was empty, and we talked about you
know exile, as a theme and, you know, in Scripture, and in our lives as Jews, and talked about, you
know, a tabernacle, right, that the Israelites used and wandered with while they were wandering in the,
in the desert, and how, you know, that becomes the temple in Jerusalem, but it was originally
something that was not rooted it was, you know, it was -it was something you can pick up and move
around with you. And, and this idea that we create sanctuaries, you know, wherever we make the
intention of creating a sanctuary. So we, we encourage people to think about how they were creating
sanctuaries and in living rooms, and so they couldn't be in the sanctuary with us, and so that that theme
of exile was one that I have been leaning on a lot. My sermon that holidays was about the destruction
of the First Temple in 86 BCE and talking about how you know one of the response to that has been a
prophetic response which you see in Jeremiah and some of the other prophetic books, you know, of
looking at the brokenness that had taken place in Jerusalem, but also seeing that the Jerusalem before
the destruction had grown quite corrupt, and the things that have existed, you know all the, a lot of the
prophetic voices talk about a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but they're not talking
about rebuilding Jerusalem the way it was before the destruction because it was quite a corrupted
place and they had quite a lot of negative views about what they saw happening in society around them
and in the temple and things like that so they reimagined Jerusalem was a better Jerusalem and I tried
to use that as a framework for what we're seeing in America, you know. The fact that during the
pandemic, you know one of the conversations in New York City was, you know, well we need to close
the public schools because we think students are inadvertently bringing COVID to elders in their
homes. Right. But then if you close the school systems, when there's a lot of kids who, you know,
survive on meals -breakfasts and lunches- in the school cafeteria, you're basically going to starve
children, and this is a ridiculous, terrible choice to have to make in 2020. It's not a moral -it's a morally
embarrassing choice that you have to make in America in 2020, that that's something that we face.
That's not, you know, the city's gonna have to be rebuilt. It wasn't razed to the ground but if we're
having to reconstruct society and our norms and our values I mean we have to knock it back to normal,
we have to do better than that. I tried to use that as a way to kind of think about the months after the
pandemic too and what it meant to try to rebuild.
Christopher Taylor ​29:37
That's awesome. That's a great perspective about, you know, reimagining, you know how we would do
things and not just to go back to the way things were but to create it anew, to create it stronger, better
than it was, so it can resolve hopefully some of these problems if they surface again like in the future.
Do you feel like, like with your congregation, and I know you've touched on this a little bit before, but
have there been many outreach programs to try to assist those people not just spiritually but
temporally? Because the people that have lost their jobs and are having a difficult time trying to just
take care of those basic needs.
Rabbi Lorge ​30:11
Yeah, so I'd say, you know, on two levels. I think there's some programming that we've been doing prior
to the pandemic that remains important work. So we have been, you know, since the 80's we've had a
program where we serve a hot meal. And then a bagged meal. We're part of a consortium of churches
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and synagogues in our area, who make sure that every day of the week, every meal of the day, there's
a place you can come for a meal. So that work we found a way to continue throughout the pandemic,
even as things were shut down, which felt like a necessary and important thing. And those numbers
have increased in terms of the numbers of people who were serving right now. So that's continuing, we
do more systemic justice work around criminal justice reform. And, you know, a lot of the reports
coming out of prisons and other populations that are incarcerated you just see that the community was
not been cared for or looked after amongst all this, and COVID has really ravaged those communities
so we're doubling down and kind of reinvesting in efforts to try to think differently about criminal justice
in New York City and in America. So some of that stuff is kind of sustaining work we've already done.
And then, you know, we're, I think just, you know, I don't think we're fully at the full scope of what's
going to be needed. You know, we know that, you know, the numbers of unhoused from insecure
people are on the rise. You can see it very visibly as you walk around the streets here in the city. And
there's going to have to be effort, both direct service and more systematic effort that's going to have to
be trying to help people out economically, you know, we're identifying and trying to identify folks in the
community, you know in our specific community who can help, because we are able, you know, we
were able to help in a more direct quick way. You know, there's things you know as little as it costs
some money to become a member of our congregation so we can, you know, relieve dues, and help
lower those costs for people who are hurting in the short term. We have some funds to be able to help
people with more acute needs, like rent and food. We try not to do it in a way that is going to be
perpetual because we want people to be able to get back on their feet so we try to do it in conjunction
with other efforts -we have a social worker on our staff who helps connect people to services that they
need. But I think, you know, as we're starting to identify and really try to help with the needs of people
directly in our community, you know, we feel responsible to the larger community around us so we're
just starting to have conversations with other faith communities. We've partnered in the past to try to
think about what's going on systemically. But I think ultimately there's going to have to be some kind of
a push towards something federal and something statewide to try to help, to try to be a voice, holding
some of our government officials accountable to try to do something. I think we were all pretty
disappointed to see the Senate, and Congress, go on vacation, without any kind of relief for the
American people. So, we'll probably end up at some point, getting vocal in that work.
Christopher Taylor ​33:45
I say, in terms of getting vocal, like, have you seen much of a, especially within like the church
leadership, or maybe encouraging regular members of the congregation, have you seen a lot of this
kind of like interfaith work to try to encourage different political officers, local or federal too, to become
involved, to kind of let them know what your concerns are, both in regards to restrictions in the church
but also in the needs of the members of the community?
Rabbi Lorge ​34:11
So we haven't done a whole lot in terms of restrictions. We felt that most of the restrictions that have
been put on in our congregation, or congregations in general, have been relatively loose -not
particularly restrictive. You know, I know, there's quite a, quite a, loud case that went to the Supreme
Court recently around some of the restrictions in New York City. It wasn't in our, you know, our part of
the city doesn't have those kinds of restrictions because we haven't been deemed the red zone, but we
have lived under similar ones when the whole city was shut down. You know I think for us to be
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different, I think, you know, we're a liberal Jewish community in the sense that we're happy to use
technology, even on the Sabbath. An orthodox community might feel less so. Though I've seen more
and more Orthodox conservative Jews start to, you know, in a moment of unprecedented need, use the
technology, you know, but it's not their preference. You know, we're comfortable to do it and where we
don't feel restricted to doing it. And so, we haven't been trying to lobby against those efforts cause
they're sensical. But in terms of, we have been part of interfaith coalitions in the past and will continue
to be on some of the justice issues that we care about working on. New York was one of two states
along with North Carolina that would allow 16 year olds to be incarcerated with adults. So we were a
part of a coalition with many other houses of worship and a few other organizations to try to get that law
changed, which we were able to successfully do -the governor signed a law making that no longer the
case. And then we're working on bail reform and a few other issues locally here. But, we'll probably try
to continue to, to, you know, I think it's, it's more powerful to act and and to to speak with other diverse
communities and I think it's it's, you know, the faith community can be really powerful community when
it draws itself together and elected officials, I think, still feel uncomfortable when they're held to account
by, you know, a pretty broad based coalition of faith communities, which is good.
Christopher Taylor ​36:37
Yeah, yeah. To do their job, right? It sounds like the church community has done a lot from kind of the
top of the group, what do you see going on from like the base, just kind of the lay population? Is there
any, not necessarily like specific stories to share, but is there any kind of surprised -maybe happily
surprised -maybe a, you know, thought kind of disappointing, you'd like to see within just kind of the
regular membership and things and supporting those needs, whether it be spiritual or material or
whatever?
Rabbi Lorge ​37:09
Yeah. You know, I think... I think one of them, you know, we have a lot of congregants who are aging
and, and, you know, trying to figure out how to handle distance and there is a very particular who I, I
speak with someone regularly. It's kind of on my watch I care about, and she's in her 90's, she lives
alone, and it's been a really hard eight months. And a lot of folks in that population have kind of
expressed, you know, you know, if I knew this was what the last few years of my life were gonna look
like, I don't know that it'd be worth it, which is a hard thing to hear, a tough thing to hear. But, I've seen,
not with my prodding or asking a lot of different members, just proactively reaching out and setting up
times to call, now that you know it's getting colder again but it does create some other methods. For
months, we'd go on distance walks with her, get her out of her apartment. They have, you can eat
outdoors now in restaurants around here so people have been doing that with her and, you know, I
think she probably gets a few calls a day, makes a world of a difference. And I'd say you know this is
true. I think of any religious community that people who I think are reaping the benefits of that are the
people who tended to invest in the community beforehand, or before the crisis. You know she's
somebody who would become a really integral part of the community, she showed up to a lot of things,
she had a long history of being a part of the community and so she's, she's known and people care
about her and worry about her. There are other people, and I know that there are other people in similar
situations who maybe are in more of the periphery who, you know, were happy to be a member of the
congregation, but didn't particularly invest in the community in a real way, it's harder. You know, we
have, we have people who are happy to make phone calls, we have people who are happy to check in.
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I do think, you know, there's a different level of care or concern or commitment that people have when
they feel like it's an organic relationship they've developed over time versus something that they're
doing, you know, out of, out of love, or grace or a sense of it being the right thing to do. So, you know, I
think it's also this whole thing that has been a reminder to some folks about, you know, what is the
power and strength about being part of a faith community. And I think, you know, we've seen for
decades a decline in people wanting to do, affiliate, you know, across all denominations and churches.
For the most part you know that had been sort of the working sociology was that, you know, American
faith was in decline outside of the evangelical circles or something like that, even evangelical churches I
think in the last 10 years have said that too. I think moments like this kind of remind people about what
you're, you miss when you're living alone, you know, and not outside of the community.
Christopher Taylor ​40:17
Yeah. Do you think that, and that's something that I've heard a lot about and I've thought about even
just within my own faith, do you feel like this is gonna -because of an event like this and I think a lot of
people are gonna remember the rest of their lives you know like back in 2020 when everything shut
down and you know all the kind of craziness of it- do you feel like this could have had ultimately a
positive or negative influence on individual faith? It seemed like you/ve kind of addressed this a little bit,
and it's probably a bit of a mixed bag, right.
Rabbi Lorge ​40:45
Yeah, it's a mixed bag I'd say. I hope -I hope for a positive, I think, I think it's, you know, it depends on
people's experience, right? I think, you know, if I was to do a poll of my community, I'd hope that they'd
say that they felt like they've been, you know, serving them well that they've found the benefit and the
good of being a part of the community during this time. And I think if that's true, and if, if that's true for
most people then, you know, we'll, we'll see the rewards of that, you know. If we were able to write I
mean if religious communities can't help people through challenging times, we're really failing at our
mission. And so I think when we do well, people notice, and they talk about it and they see it and, and
they want to be a part of that. So I think if we're doing our job well, and if we're, you know, kind of
fulfilling our mission, hopefully, hopefully, you know, people will be more attuned, they want to pay it
forward, they want to be able to give back, they want to be able to live their values out in a way that's
meaningful and authentic. But, you know if people feel more alone, less connected... The other thing
that I think that's hard is there's a theological question all this which is, you know, what caused this?
Why is it happening? Right? And I've heard a lot of different people, people who maybe would have
scoffed at ideas about theology and god, you know, all of a sudden, you know, the the superstition in
them says well, I don't know what did cause this, and one person who I call regularly says they think it's
a punishment from God. That's not my theology and I tried to warn her away from that theology
because I don't think it's a helpful one; it's not particularly a liberal Jewish theology at all. But I do think,
you know, there is a renewed sense of people asking questions about what is the meaning behind life
and living and, you know, if, if, when you realize how fragile everything is. You asked different kinds of
questions and I think people hadn't quite seen the fragility that was baked around us in this system that
we live in. And now they can't help but notice it. Then we have a holiday in Judaism called Sukkot,
that's our feast of foods, and it's all about kind of recognizing how fragile life is and I feel like this time
has been a really long protracted Sukkot where it's just like, you know, everything is tentativeness, and
it's been a crazy reminder of how tenuous everything is. And there's a way to lean into that and still find
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joy, which is all about what Sukkot is about -it's about finding an ability to, even in a fragile life and in a
fragile world, to still be able to wrestle out joy and blessing and goodness and feel, meaning and
purpose behind it so if that's people's experience through religion in this time then I think it'll be for the
good.
Christopher Taylor ​43:43
That's awesome, man. It sounds like you're doing amazing work with a lot of those people, and really
making a positive influence in them. Just with the last couple of minutes that we have, is there any
particular topic or idea that you would like to address, or something that you've found interesting as
we've kind of navigated our way through, (hopefully as we're nearing the end but who knows, right?) as
they're navigating our way through this kind of journey of 2020?
Rabbi Lorge ​44:09
I think, I'm trying to remember, I think one of the questions asked about different age demographics and
they're responses to this. That struck me just because I do a lot of work with our teens and I do think, I
don't think this is necessarily a religious thing in the sense that I think teens are having a really hard
time. I, you know, I was curious, as a teacher yourself, you know, if you see that in your students. But in
the students I work with I'm definitely seeing a lot more anxiety, you know, I'm not a clinician, but a lot of
people are feeling, you know, we're trying to communicate to our community as we head into the winter
here in New York. You know, we're not able to gather as much, and it's darker earlier. We're trying to
tell adults and youth about warning signs around mental illness and stuff like that. Things they should
be on the lookout for depression and anxiety because we've noticed a real spike amongst adults and
teens. So, you know, we have a whole new renewed program that we just kind of came up with in the
last week and a half -I guess a month now- really, three weeks trying to try to address what we're
seeing is it's, it's kind of morphing from, you know, trying to, you know, try to take what we're noticing
and apply it and be flexible enough to meet the needs we're seeing. I don't know if you see that in your
school?
Christopher Taylor ​45:31
Yeah, you know it's been, it's been something shocking, where more than any other year (this is my
10th year teaching) but there's just the apathy of students. And it's surprising even in little things, like if I
give them 10 minutes at the end of class to work on an assignment. In a typical year, kids would be
kind of working but also socializing and talking and stuff. And now when I give them time to work, it's
just quiet. And it's like, like part of me is like, Oh, it's nice. But part of that bothers me and makes me
worried for them because so many of them, even when they are in the midst of so many people, are
isolating themselves. You know they don't chime in with questions I think because they feel like the
mask is a hindrance or it just gives them an excuse not to say anything. And the number of students
struggling is certainly higher than I've ever seen. And I think that a lot of it is due to that. And as a
faculty and as teachers we try to come up with different ways to try to engage students with something.
Now just shutting down this week again for a second time, in anticipation for it I was letting students
know there's a decent chance this is going to happen again. And the first time it happened, I think a lot
of students treated the shutdown as though like I'll figure out my grades and everything afterwards, and
they kind of dug themselves in a hole and now I think they realize kind of the reality like, "oh, this year
in school still does count, I need to figure things out". But now many of them do feel like they can't talk
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or they don't want to talk or they just are dealing with so many difficult things, and I think a lot of
students play it off like they don't care, like "oh, it's just school, whatever, I don't care" but I think a lot of
them really are struggling with being home and like you said, I think it's missing out on what this year
should have been -not going to homecoming, not going to football games, not going to, you know, the
kinds of high school, these are valuable years in these kids lives, and for them to miss out on this, it
really is difficult. And so it's nice to see when you do find those successes and you're finding a way to,
to create something that's not the ideal, but you can approximate what you had hoped to be able to get,
and you can see the happiness, and I've been really encouraged by how many students have reached
out to me, emailed me, and just said, "hey thanks", you know, thanks for supporting us in these difficult
times, thanks for understanding, thanks for, for validating my feelings for, you know, those kinds of
personal moments that I think -especially in faith communities- you're able to touch people and let them
know that people are thinking about them, people care about them. And I think that's what's almost
been as important as anything. Obviously academics matter in my profession but, I think equally
important that I need to, I want my students to know that, that I care about them, and the community
cares about them, and that we want to help them through these difficult times as well. So, so definitely,
yeah, with teenagers it's, it's a tough age group and I know they're struggling for sure as well. And that's
why I'm glad that they have more than just a school, that there are religious, you know, faith groups that
they can help promote them as well, because not everybody has a good home life not everybody has,
you know that support from home so they need that those extra people to step into their lives and to
kind of help, help fill those roles. I don't think we could ever fully take on the role of maybe father, or
mother, or whatever but, but to be as best as we can and show them that care and concern. Well
thanks man, again, I really appreciate it. It shouldn't have taken this long for me to reach out to you.
Rabbi Lorge ​49:22
No worries, no worries., I'm really glad, glad we got to do this.

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Mike Edwards Interview
Fri, 12/4 1:07PM • 44:43
SPEAKERS
Mike Edwards, Christopher Taylor
Christopher Taylor ​00:17
So for this oral history, our interest is really just to look at the ways in which COVID has affected
different people of faith and a variety of different religions, and see how people have reacted to this
thing. And so I suppose my first question then is, how has the spread of COVID-19 impacted the way
that you reach out to your parish or talk to people in your religious community?
Mike Edwards ​00:47
That's a pretty good question. Within our parish, we have different groups that we have, a men's group
and a women's group, and stuff like that, and one way we've reached out is through text messages and
emails. But one of the things that I noticed with our parish specifically, is for the parish to do it it's been
a lot more difficult because people's phone numbers aren't correct, their emails aren't correct. Every
time they've tried to do a Mass live, it hasn't worked out very well, so much so that even this past
weekend, our priests had a flyer to update our information, because it's just been really hard. One of
the things we're gonna try to do, as we open the church back up because we were closed for a while,
was to do it alphabetically, and then he would email or call those families, text them. But the numbers
were so wrong, right off the bat they never really got around to it. So right now, they're trying to go
through and get everybody's numbers updated and correct so they can make a master list. But
interestingly each of the individual groups, and the leaders of those groups have everybody's emails
within that group. The only problem with that is you only get the same people that normally go to church
or normally participate in all the church activities, are the ones that are still going. And the ones that
come occasionally, or only go to church and don't participate in all the other church activities, they're
kind of left out. They don't know when mass is, they don't know when things like confession are, and all
that sort of stuff, just because they're not going to mass regularly. And they're not getting information.
The only downside to that is that every single every day our daily mass is recorded, and streamed live
on Facebook, so we can get some information there, and then Sunday Mass is streamed live on
Facebook.
Christopher Taylor ​02:45
That's awesome. So you've been able to use different social media platforms in order to stream the
same kind of services. Is this something that you guys were doing prior to COVID? Or is this something
new?
Mike Edwards ​03:02
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No, when COVID hit, and they started closing down churches, there was a panic, because, you know, I
feel bad for any religious leader trying to lead. They're fostering this crazy period, because you would
think that as a country like America, we'd have better communication lines set up. I think if you look at it
historically speaking, we were probably better at it when we had fallen trees and stuff like that back in
the day during the Cold War, you know, and stuff like that. Communication's great but it's also I think
created a lot of emptiness and a lot of individuality that breaks up the community a little bit, like the
church community itself. So yeah, we've taken advantage of stuff we haven't taken advantage of
before, like our email or our website's not that great. It's changed hands and who's been in charge of it.
So when certain people become in charge of it, you know, I think it's changed on how they use it and try
to narrow that down. One of our deacons is responsible for some of the stuff on there now and helped
out a little bit, but it was a drastic change, and it took a huge learning curve.
Christopher Taylor ​04:12
For sure. And like with this, now that you've kind of recognized this, do you feel like this is something
that within the church leadership that they plan on continuing to use these kinds of platforms or having
somebody that's more frequently updating those kinds of contacts?
Mike Edwards ​04:29
I hope so, I hope that we do a better job of updating contact and updating those platforms. I do see an
increase. So what was interesting is when we started to livestream the Mass, I actually think initially, we
had an increase in attendance, because then you could sit at home and go to Mass, and the Bishop
has given us dispensation. So dispensation is the right of the ability to stay home and not have to put
yourself in danger by going to Mass because in the Catholic faith, the Sabbath is a holy day. And if you
don't go to church on the Sabbath, which is Saturday night through Sunday, you know, Jewish history
when the Sabbath starts. So if you want to go to Mass on TV, you can do that. And I think originally,
numbers were pretty high, you could look at the counter of the people that were actually logged on and
watching, and it was higher than I thought it was going to be. But I think as COVID has drawn out,
those numbers have dropped off too, which is unfortunate. I mean, there's more people going back to
church now, and we have more people attending Mass regularly, but I don't think the numbers would
match up to the total number of people who are trying to do it online and now they've just kind of
slipped away a little too.
Christopher Taylor ​05:45
Yeah it's like maybe initially, there's kind of that novelty, and it seems like a great idea, so you get kind
of more buy-in in the beginning, and then as it becomes more of the casual, people are like I can go
look at it later. And so I could see that being an issue.
Mike Edwards ​05:58
The nice thing about the Catholic faith, though, is that historically speaking, there've been several
Catholic news stations, Catholic channels that you could get the apps for stuff like that and watch Mass
from your house every Sunday for people that are like invalid and stuff like that, that can't actually get to
church. We have several news organizations and church organizations that actually livestream -I've
been live streaming that for several years. Big networks, like EWGN and Kappa Channel and Ave
Maria Radio and, and a few others are really big. And they reach a lot of people globally. So we had
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access to some technology and access to things like Sunday Masses only. So we're doing daily
Masses that you can log into, but parish, on the parish side of it, it was very difficult.
Christopher Taylor ​06:53
So on the larger scale, there's always been some -or not always- but there has been a longer history of,
you know, at least being able to tune into Mass, but as far as the local parish and doing local
community activities, that's where it's been tough, and this has been a new experience.
Mike Edwards ​07:07
Yeah, a huge hurdle to try to climb.
Christopher Taylor ​07:09
Do you feel like when you look at the types of people that are coming or not, do you feel like there's any
particular group that you've noticed that you've been shocked that they're not coming, like if it's youth or
the elderly or anything like that?
Mike Edwards ​07:25
That's interesting. We have four church services. We have one on Saturday evening, and then Sunday,
8am, Sunday at 10am, and then Spanish Mass Sunday at noon. I typically go to the Saturday evening
Mass, and I participate quite a bit in it. I'm a lecturer, I help out, I've ushered when people are not there,
I do a lot. But right now, in the last maybe month or so, regular attendance on Saturdays has been
pretty stable at about 70ish, which is close, for the size of our church, with keeping distancing six feet
and stuff like that, has been pretty close to as far as we can get. And it's the same people that went
there, who were coming to Mass before the pandemic. And for the most part, there's a few people that
aren't coming because of risk health and stuff like that. And other than that, though, I don't know, now
I've been told that like the 8am Mass on Sunday morning is very poorly attended. All the talk about the
other day is that the Deacon says it isn't too bad. I mean, I don't get up on Sundays anyway. So it'd be
hard for me to go.
Christopher Taylor ​08:53
Do you feel like many of these new kinds of social media outlets are gonna become a staple of the
church moving forward then?
Mike Edwards ​08:59
I really hope not because our sacraments are very very important to us, and receiving Holy
Communion, receiving absolution of penance for going to Confession, those have to be done in person.
You can't do confessionals over the phone, you can't do confessionals over Zoom, because of possible
people tapping into it and stuff like that. And then you can't receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, you
have to be in person for that. And that's a big part of our faith. And to stay online would, I think, do
damage to our faith greatly.
Christopher Taylor ​09:33
I think that's really interesting that you bring that up. I think when most people think of religion, they
think of it as just like learning stuff, you know, learning the doctrine, and yet, like you say, you know,
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there's a lot more to it. And I would say particularly in the Catholic faith, the emphasis of the sacraments
and these kind of, you know, ordinances or rituals that are performed that really can't be substituted
with just some kind of service like this.
Mike Edwards ​09:57
It's hard to do a baptism over the internet. You throw water at your TV screen? Yeah, there's definitely
that. You know I teach the confirmation class which is also another sacrament, and that's actually a
two year requirement of learning to be confirmed. You know, and we've had to make the adjustments
for that too. We went all the way down to just twelve students per class and we have six feet between
each student in the class, and it's been kind of difficult.
Christopher Taylor ​10:30
Are there some of those kinds of rituals that have had to stop entirely as a result of it or been put off
until they could find a solution for it?
Mike Edwards ​10:38
There has. So when they first shut down, obviously Communion was done, and even Confessions were
done, because everything was shut down completely. And then we've moved into a phase where some
people are able to go back to church, Confessional was done sometimes -it depends on the state- and
what the local laws are in the states, a lot of stuff like that, and the rules that the mayors and governors
are placing out there. Luckily, the Supreme Court made a nice ruling yesterday for religious faith,
especially in New York City. But we actually had where you could do a drive by Confessions in person,
but they wanted to keep the distance between the person going to Confession and the priest, so the
priests would sit outside the parking lot, and pull the car up next to them, and they would roll the
window down and do just Confession in the parking lot. Which -crazy- but I mean, because those
sacraments mean so much to us, people are willing to do that. I think there's a lot of frustration out
there, there's a lot of people that would like to go to church, they would like to have a more normal life.
They would like to see the sacraments. But they're also a lot of people that are scared because of
COVID, and the possible, spreading from like that. One of the things that we've done specifically in our
diocese, (so the diocese is the whole state of Utah) we're required to receive Communion in the hand,
historically speaking, received either on the tongue or in the hand. Some people think that in the hand
isn't as reverent as on the tongue, because you could drop it. But all the way back as far as the second
century, there's been guidelines for that, to receive it in the hand, by some of the early church fathers,
from the third century. And there's been a lot of conservation over people wanting to receive it in the
mouth, and actually, what's really weird is you have some people in some places that will refuse to go
to church if the hand receives the offering. Which I mean, for me, I think I don't know if I'd call it petty,
but I think it's the lack of understanding of how to do it reverently in the hand, as opposed to on the
tongue. Does that make sense? There's a way to do it reverently and I think you should be able to
swallow your pride a little bit and if you want to really receive the sacrament, you receive the
sacrament, you know?
Christopher Taylor ​13:14

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Is that something where -because I wouldn't even have thought of that- but yeah, there's probably
some people that would see it as the compromise being made in an effort to to perform these. They
don't think that it's good enough or acceptable...
Mike Edwards ​13:31
Yeah and that's a poor understanding of the faith. I think in recent years, catechesis has been poor, I
know that my catechesis was poor. Now that I teach it, I wish I would have learned the stuff when I was
a kid that I'm teaching now. Because I don't think either I'm ignorant and I forgot that I learned it or it
was never taught to me to begin with. I'm kind of a smart guy, I think I'd remember some of the stuff. So
it's interesting, they say ignorance is bliss, but I don't know if ignorance is gonna get you to heaven.
Christopher Taylor ​14:14
Do you think that recognizing this maybe from a church leadership standpoint, have they maybe
rethought, that maybe there are some of these things that we need to go back through and evaluate
how we've taught?
Mike Edwards ​14:24
Yeah, I think even a little bit before COVID, but definitely because of COVID I think church leadership is
starting to understand that a lot of people don't really understand, you know, how to do the sacraments
correctly or what the church moral standards on certain issues are or you know, what the catechesis is,
you know. We've got the Catechism of the Catholic Church which was propagated by Vatican two back
in the 1960s. We had a catechism before that called the Baltimore Catechism but the Catechism of the
Catholic Church is a pretty thick book, but it's got all the rules of the Church in it and now they're saying,
the vast majority of Catholics have never opened one.
Christopher Taylor ​15:07
Yeah. I guarantee that that's not just a Catholic issue. That's a general problem.
Mike Edwards ​15:14
Absolutely. And so that responsibility kind of falls on us, the laity, and we're not doing a good job of that
either. Obviously, I think, if more people were true to their faith, we'd have a lot less problems as we're
having in society today. You know, the two greatest commandments that Jesus gave when the
Sadducees and the Pharisees tried to corner more, number one, love God, above all else, and number
two, love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you love your neighbors and you love yourself, we're not
gonna have rioting, we're gonna have protests, we're not gonna have racism, we're not gonna have all
that other stuff, right?
Christopher Taylor ​15:48
Yeah. That's really interesting. So you do a teaching class, right? For youth? Have you mentioned any
of that with them? Or have you gotten a feel for what they feel like?
Mike Edwards ​16:03
Oh absolutely. You know, the youth have a hard time. It's probably not just in the Catholic Church, but
they think church is boring. "Why don't have to get up on Sundays?", stuff like that. So, you know, you
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got to kind of try to sell it, as a chatechesis teacher, why it's important, stuff like that. And that was
actually one of my lessons I did this last Monday was loving your neighbor as you love yourself. You
know, and, and part of the thing I talked about is, you know, you would have to understand what loving
yourself means also, you know. It means treating your body with respect, it means doing what's morally
right. You know, how can you treat somebody else that way, if you don't even treat yourself that way. I
think that has been a new direction that some of the stuff the church is doing, at least I'm hoping so.
Christopher Taylor ​17:02
As far as COVID is concerned with either youth or elderly or just kind of the people that you know, what
kind of impact do you think COVID has had on people's faith? Do you think that with kind of these
events like catastrophe that people are drawing away? Or maybe in what way? I'm sure it's kind of a
combination, but maybe in what ways have they drawn closer to the faith? And maybe moved away?
Mike Edwards ​17:22
it's interesting, I think, I think it kind of ebbs and flows. I think, when you have a, we have a pattern like
this, I think a lot of people turn to faith quickly. The problem was that as this happened, turning to faith
is a hard thing to do, because churches were closed down. You know what I mean? I think it butted
heads there, I think in a regular situation, you know, take a typical war, you know, what was church
attendance during the World War, did it increase or decrease? I'm assuming that it increased, right? But
during a pandemic, I would assume the church attendance would increase except for the churches
were closed. So I think you get a lot of pushback because of that. And a lot of distrust in the
government. And, I don't know. I know that in the past few years, laities, for Catholics, I mean, every
church has problems with, with membership leaving in the pandemic, sometimes, but not all. But what I
have seen is that those that still try to go to church and those that remain faithful, their faith has been
deepened. If that makes sense.
Christopher Taylor ​18:32
Yeah.
Mike Edwards ​18:33
They're stronger in their faith, if they've stayed positive, and stayed going to church if they could, or
watching it on tv, and they're taking time to read and listen to Catholic radio and stuff like that.
Christopher Taylor ​18:49
That's interesting, because I agree. I think like you said, you know, when you have a catastrophe,
there's a lot of people I think would naturally turn to religion. But it complicates it when they can't turn to
religion, at least not in the way that you want to because of the pandemic. And that would probably lead
to like you mentioned, the frustration.
Mike Edwards ​19:05
I think that's what you're seeing nationwide, so many churches, speaking out against the government
as restrictions are handed down, you know, it's like Governor Cuomo doesn't allow churches to meet
but he allows supermarkets to be open. And, you know, he lost in that Supreme Court case, so the
churches can remain open. You know, what I mean? It's interesting, I think some governors, I think,
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some government officials have figured out, the mayor of LA just last week, closed everything down,
except for two things, protests and churches. Both of them are rights. And I think a lot of Americans feel
cheated and that they are not able to experience personal rights where other businesses are being able
to be left open. So I think you see a little bit of a ground swelling of faithful -in general- pushing back
against the government in some of these regulations that are being pushed on, not just in the Catholic
faith, but I think the other faiths too. People want to go to church and the government's not letting us do
it, so it becomes okay, where are we at as a society?
Christopher Taylor ​20:07
Yeah, and that's interesting, you know, as far as the political nature, it's like people don't want to
politicize it. But when, you know, a shutdown does close down your church, you I think in a way, you
have to kind of politicize it. Do you feel like that's created any division within the parish or like some
people are more willing to go along with it and other people are not?
Mike Edwards ​20:26
Yeah I think it's interesting, that there are some people that are divided by some of the people in the
parish. I have a really good friend that believes that everything about COVID is a government hoax, and
it's a farce and it's not as bad as it seems, and that we're bowing down to the man. And I understand
that point of view. If you looked at the total statistics, and the total numbers of people that are dying,
and the total of people that are getting sick, and I'm not saying that's a good thing, it's bad when
anybody gets sick and when anybody dies, but if you compare it to things like the Spanish flu, or even
the normal flu, the numbers aren't that dramatically greater, or in some cases they're smaller. So, the
politicizing of the pandemic has, I think, divided people in the parish, for that reason. You know,
whether to wear a mask or not, for people that don't like wearing a mask, they don't think they should
have to wear masks in church, and there's been a lot of pushback in that. We offer free masks as you
come in, if you didn't bring one or you forgot one, and some people have turned around and walked out,
and they wouldn't come into church cause they don't want to have to wear a mask, you know. But one
part about that is if you're truly Christian, and you're wearing a mask, that's charity. It's not for your
protection it's for the protection of everybody around you. And I think we forget that, you know, I think
pride, one of the seven deadly sins, definitely plays a huge factor into that, and it's unfortunate.
Christopher Taylor ​21:55
In your particular Parish, like if someone were to walk in and decide not to wear a mask, would they
have to leave, or have you been given much guidance about that?
Mike Edwards ​22:03
Yeah, they would be escorted out because that's what the bishop has said, that the rule is created. And
he is our shepherd. And, you know, you can politically not like it, but are you gonna follow the rule of
the Catholic Church and the rule that your shepherd has set down or are you gonna be hard-headed
and stubborn and not wear it? Most people, even my friend that thinks the pandemic is fake, he will
wear his mask to church. He doesn't like it -he hates it- but he does.
Christopher Taylor ​22:39

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Yeah, and I like how you mentioned, I'm sure you talk about this in your church, but like you said, it's an
act of compassion, you know, maybe you don't think it's necessary, but there are going to be people
that are here. So for their sensitivity to, to demonstrate that brotherly love to them, you're going to wear
it to, to try to demonstrate that we're gonna all be in this together kind of an attitude.
Mike Edwards ​22:58
Yeah. But how hard is it? It's not like "okay, I don't like it, yay". You know for Catholics church is an
hour. It's not that hard.
Christopher Taylor ​23:09
Have there been other -aside from wearing a mask- are there any other restrictions that have been
placed on the church?
Mike Edwards ​23:33
So we also have spray bottles in front of the church you're required to spray your hands with, whatever
it is, the gel they use to kill the germs, and then, before we go up to Communion we're required to wear
our face masks as we're walking through the church while going up to Communion. And then the
Communion servers, including the priest and the deacons, usually, in the Catholic faith, the priest and
the deacon give out Communion, but we have what's called extraordinary ministers that also give out
Communion just to help out a little bit. They'll go up and receive their communion and they've got to
spray their hands in between each Communion, before they put their hand out for anybody else. So,
one of the things they put in, like I said, the other restrictions are 6 feet between people, between each
family, the reduction in the size of the classes, um you know, things like that.
Christopher Taylor ​24:31
Do you feel like they're...
Mike Edwards ​24:32
It's harder too because you have to open up more classes for catechism to get all the students
educated. We've had to do online for almost -or take home stuff- for almost all the other sacramental
classes. First communion and confirmation are the only catechism classes meeting right now. You
know, that's third grade, fourth grade, and seventh and eighth grade. All the other classes aren't
meeting right now, and those teachers are doing assignments they get to take home and read that, so
we've had to change a lot of stuff that way too.
Christopher Taylor ​25:05
Yeah. Have you had many people that you feel like you've expressed gratitude for the willingness for
the church to comply and to, you know, to at least get something on the field to do as much as you
can?
Mike Edwards ​25:17
Oh yeah, there's a lot of people that are super happy that the church is open. And it's a very warm
feeling, we have a pretty tight community especially. I mean, it's probably like a lot of other churches,
there's groups of people that hang out together within the church and you know, when you've been
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quarantined it's nice to see each other. But another thing that happened is that we can't meet in the
foyar, we can't stop and greet each other on the way in or the way out, and we can meet outside but as
winter comes up, it's gonna be much harder. Yeah, there's a lot of gravity. And there's a lot of people
that wish they could go that just won't go because they're afraid of COVID, you know. If you look at the
demographics of the Catholic Church here in Utah, it's a lot of older people, a lot of post-forty-year-old
people and a lot of much older people too that are Catholic. So they're afraid because they're afraid of
getting the virus, and that's understandable.
Christopher Taylor ​26:15
Yeah. Has the church tried to -and I know, we talked about this a little bit in the beginning- but has there
been any way especially for, like you said, that older generation that may be a little bit more concerned
coming in, to try to facilitate that kind of camaraderie or other kind of, you know, instead of hanging out
in the foyer, or doing that kind of social gathering something else for them to do to replace that?
Mike Edwards ​26:35
Unfortunately, like, it takes me 15 minutes to get to my parish. So organizing events, it's not like it's a
community of men that you can meet down with, you know, at the park on the corner and do something
for Catholics in Utah. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of orientation and a lot of stuff to make
something like that happen. I'm not saying that we can't. And maybe we should, but I think just with,
with what COVID has been, and how its treated people, and how people are tired and worn out and
they don't want to you know, I think it would be very hard to do. And I think even with that, the people
that are afraid to come to church would also be afraid to meet like that. The other thing, that's important
too, though, you know, one of our sacraments is the sacrament of healing, (it used to be called last
rites) but if you are sick, you can call our priests and they'll show up and give you communion and show
you compassion and do your last rites, and he'll pray for you for healing. And he'll do that at the drop of
a hat, him and the deacon. They have ran into problems with people that are sick from the hospital,
whether they can come in or not, because they only allow families, and stuff like that. Interestingly too,
at what point do you restrict clergy from being in the hospital to give people last rites, you know? Not
every church does that. But the Catholic church is willing and it's a responsibility that's hard. You know,
not being able to do that, and have the government say no, it's frustrating for them. But it also puts
them at risk too. I mean, our preist is 54m, our main deacon -who has taken on a lot of responsibility- is
72 or 73. And our newest deacon is 60. So you know, they're old, they're in the high risk areas, but they
are willing to go and they know that help is sacred. One thing I've been trying to really push lately in the
classes I teach, and I think a lot of other Catholic students too, is that we're only here on Earth for a
brief moment, and we're in eternity forever. So is it more important to focus on what's next -forever? Or
is it more important to focus on your time here on the planet. So, you know, I think that's been a little bit
of the change in the focus of a lot of the teachers that are teaching and stuff like that. And our priests
and our deacons really understand that and the reality people face with dying or the possibility of dying.
Christopher Taylor ​26:59
Do you feel like there's been an uptick in the number of people asking/reaching out to the priest or the
deacon to come?
Mike Edwards ​29:57
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They're always just busy. So I don't know if it's been more or less busy than usual. The only downside
of that is when they've been exposed to somebody for 15 minutes, now they've got to quarantine, and
in the state of Utah, we have a limited number of priests and deacons, right? So if, if our priests get
quarantined now, you know, what do we do as a congregation? You know, we can have communion
services with hosts that have already been consecrated, but it's not a regular full mass, and a deacon
can do that but it's not a regular full mass. There's only so many substitute priests in the state of Utah
that can fill in for the priest in your area.
Christopher Taylor ​30:34
Yeah. Do you think that creates any hesitancy at all among people to call on the bishop knowing that?
Or the priest or any of them?
Mike Edwards ​30:47
I don't know. I don't think it's caused any hesitancy for the priest to do, you know, what they've been
ordained to do. I think they're glad to do it. I think they're cautious and they're wary of the possibilities.
But I think our bishop has done a very good job of trying to maintain continuity throughout the state.
Christopher Taylor ​31:16
Okay. For COVID, I think that religion plays such an important role in you know, you hear a lot about a
lot of people that are struggling with depression, with rise of things like suicide, and, you know,
especially with the isolation that a lot of people experience. And even for people that don't have a
chance to go to work, because maybe they've been laid off, or they've been furloughed, you know,
sometimes work becomes that, that outlet that they need. So what kind of value, or why do you think
religion might become so important in stepping in or continuing that role of helping these kind of people
out?
Mike Edwards ​31:54
I think faith gives us comfort, I think it gives us more comfort than anything else. Going to work is nice
and being there for your friends is good, but being able to rely on faith, the benefits of faith I think are
really important. I've seen, I've heard studies where you literally are depressed, or having anxiety, if
they take medication for it, it can be good. If they take medication, and increase their faithful life, it's
even better. But ironically, if they just increase their faithful life, it actually does better than the
medication and the faith, if they just decided to deepen their faith. So I think, I think faith is super
important.
Christopher Taylor ​32:56
Do you feel like within, specifically in Catholicism, are there any particular stories that you feel like are
especially important in a time like this that gives comfort?
Mike Edwards ​33:09
I think, you know, a lot of those stories would be pretty similar across the Christian faith, and whether
it's the New Testament or the Old Testament, you know, for those that endure the hard times, you
know, there'll be greatness on the other end, the meek shall inherit the earth. If you look at the Israelites
as they came out of Egypt, you know, and the 10 plagues that Moses brought upon Pharaoh, and, you
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know, they were able to get out of there. I think that most Christian faiths are going to have those same
stories or same typical events that really gave comfort to those that were away, you know, when you
see a man in the desert, and God provides for you. I think those are all things that we can rely on. As
we look at New Testament verses, and even Old Testament verses.
Christopher Taylor ​34:04
That's awesome. Let me just double check. How do you feel that the pandemic has impacted the way
that you view religion today? Now that having experienced kind of what you see within your own
congregation, and even just within your own family, has that attitude changed or any of that?
Mike Edwards ​34:25
I think I'm more frustrated with the way the government has handled it with restrictions and stuff like
that. I think there's been a huge shift in our society lately anyway, towards a more socialistic ideal, and
one of the basics of socialism is structurally the nuclear family, you know, if you go to some of the basic
socialist theories. I think the only way to combat that is to say, I think faith's gonna be the thing that's
going to be able to combat the socialist movement within the United States. It's ironic though, we use
faith until we don't need it anymore, we don't think we need it anymore. We can rely on it and we can
preach it and we can believe in it, and then once everything seems to be better, we seem to lose our
faith a little bit. So. I don't know, I hope as the pandemic does bring people back closer to the faith, I
hope that they realize that, you know, the material things of the world that we have, they seem to go
away with the pandemic with jobs or the amount of money we have in our savings, or whatever, that all
that's fleeting, and that faith -the eternal reward is much more important than what we have here on
earth.
Christopher Taylor ​35:50
Do you think that because of the pandemic, has it been with like your own Parish, any kind of, you
know, community efforts with an interfaith joining with other religious denominations to try to express
that same kind of an attitude like the importance of faith, regardless of what denomination we're a part
of?
Mike Edwards ​36:09
I know that in recent years, regardless of the pandemic or not, I know that our Bishop has reached out
to other faith communities within the state of Utah to create some ecumenical learning,
ecumenical-based ideas across the board. So I think that's a very positive thing. But parish wise, like I
said, our parishioners are so few and far between, and then if you look at the other states, I think, Utah
is what 5% of Utah's Catholic and then so who else with a Christian faith are we gonna reach out to?
We've done some stuff with the LDS Church -it's right across the street from ours. They were really
helpful when we were building the church and our new parish and everything like that. But there's even
fewer Episcopalians, even fewer, you know, Lutherans, there's even fewer Baptists. So they're even
spread out even more, so it'd be interesting. I think they've needed joining with other faiths, but not on a
parish level just because they're so spread out.
Christopher Taylor ​37:09

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That's probably true, probably more of a, from the top position kind of working together. Do you feel like
a joint effort like that, or even do you know, if there has been any kind of movement for them to contact,
you know, local political leaders or state political leaders? Just to kind of get that voice out, to let them
know, because I think, I wonder if some of them think, you know, it is just about, you know, you can
listen to a lesson online, but I think they don't realize kind of the necessity of being in person and that
kind of an impact...
Mike Edwards ​37:42
You know, I don't, I don't know, my assumption in the state of Utah would be that with the government
of the state of Utah as being so LDS-centered, and the governor being LDS, I think they probably have
a closer connection with that, and will have an easier time of pushing those ideas. And I think that's
maybe why the restrictions in Utah aren't as bad as some of the other places. I think the LDS Church is
taking a lead in that, and thankfully so. I know that the LDS Church has had their own restrictions
they've had to deal with and rotate the times for them to go to church and all that stuff, also. But I think
we're lucky to be in a state like this where faith is important, and the government knows that faith's
important to us. But I know that, I'm pretty sure that our Bishop meets with the governor. I know that
representatives will go to the State Congress and talk about stuff, so I know that it does happen.
Christopher Taylor ​38:49
That's awesome that they do have that contact and that hopefully, there's kind of those good feelings
and willingness to kind of work together to try to help, you know to make sure that it's not just an LDS
thing here in Utah but that all people feel heard.
Mike Edwards ​39:01
One of the things I thought was interesting was on charity, and how we responded with families that are
needy and stuff like that. The response for -historically for Catholics- has always been very good. You
know, if you look at the stats, historically, the cabinet's give more to charity than any other religious
faith, you know, in the history of the world. And we still do a lot of that right now. We had a drive for
families for Thanksgiving. And we fed families that way. We'll do the same thing for Christmas and the
few people that do show up for that give way more than you would expect. The families that went home
with turkeys and everything from Thanksgiving drive was, they got enough food for months, for whole
families. And then they have things like Catholic community services that people donate money to all
the time and they're out in the communities, helping out. And you've got The Lenderton House, which I
think, we give money to and donations to, and you've got the soup kitchen down in Salt Lake that feeds
homeless people three times a day, every day of the week. And, you know, a lot of stuff is financed
through our regular donations to the church on a weekly basis and a yearly basis, also.
Christopher Taylor ​40:24
That's good to know, because even though in a time where a lot of people are hurting financially, it's
nice to know that those donations haven't, you know, completely dropped off. And it sounds like from
what you're saying that it's actually increased, a lot of people are being more generous.
Mike Edwards ​40:38

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Yeah, I think people realize that other people are struggling, and those that have are giving more than
they have in the past -it just feels like it a little bit. Like I said, the amount of food that we had has
dramatically increased. The weird part was that we didn't have as many families that requested food.
So the ones that got the food got extra because we didn't feed as many as we thought we would, which
is a whole other issue.
Christopher Taylor ​41:03
Yeah. Do you have within your local area, like you said, you know, leaders checking in on those that
they know would probably be hurting more like when you hear about a family that's, you know, maybe
somebody's lost a job or been laid off for a little while?
Mike Edwards ​41:19
I think our parish does a pretty good job of knowing the families within the parish. And if there are
problems, I think there's enough general concern for one another within the parish that we check up on
each other regularly. Because by seven degrees of separation, right, everybody knows Kevin Bacon.
Within so many steps, so I think word of mouth travels pretty quickly for people in need and stuff like
that. You know, we still do funeral services and stuff like that, and they can call the parish at any time
and ask for help, and what help we can give.
Christopher Taylor ​41:58
That sounds great, sounds like you've got a really well-connected, you know, kind of family unit in your
parish.
Mike Edwards ​42:03
Yeah, we try, we try. We wish more people would attend, we have a lot of families that are registered to
our parish, but church attendance is low. It was low before the pandemic, you know, but the pandemic
definitely I don't think has helped out. Like it's really, I think, those that are faithful it's deepened their
faith, it just hasn't spread a lot.
Christopher Taylor ​42:24
Yeah, I wonder if when this is all over, whenever there is a sense of normal, you know, how many,
maybe people that are not currently coming for a variety of different reasons, if you'll see any kind of
spike. Or if you feel like it'll be just kind of the same, you know, the same that are probably attending
now will be the same that keep coming.
Mike Edwards ​42:46
I think we'll have an increase in church attendance cause I know we have parishioners right now that
are aching to come but because of fear, because their immune-compromised, and stuff like that, they
just don't dare come to church right now. But I think we'll have an increase in church attendance, at
least for a while.
Christopher Taylor ​43:01

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Transcribed by ​https://otter.ai

And I wonder even if it's just those that are, like you said, you know, on the lists, but are for whatever
reason maybe have been less active for a long period of time, if maybe once normal comes back and
you know, if there's this appreciation for it, like, "oh, maybe I appreciate that...I want to go back".
Mike Edwards ​43:16
Yeah, I hope that the Holy Spirit does reach out and touch those people and touches their hearts and
realizes that, you know, they made it through the pandemic because of the grace of God and that they'll
be appreciative and come to church and be grateful and thankful and increase membership and
attendance and stuff.
Christopher Taylor ​43:33
Okay. Well I really appreciate all your support, maybe just as a final question, is there any other kind of
final thoughts you had on the pandemic or on, you know, how it's affected faith that you'd like to kind of
leave us off with?
Mike Edwards ​43:47
No, I just think it's, I think it's unfortunate, I think my biggest gripe is the strife between local
governments and the ability to attend church. My biggest area of concern is you can have tattoo shops
open and bars open and grocery stores open, but you can't have church open. That frustrates me, I
think it's a violation of our First Amendment rights. I think it's a violation of people's faith rights in
general. I think it's a violation of what America was based on. When things like the Supreme Court rules
against New York City in their faith requirements, it makes me happy.
Christopher Taylor ​44:32
Well, I really appreciate everything you've done for us and I'll talk to you later, man.
Mike Edwards ​44:37
Yep! Thanks for the interview!

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Transcribed by ​https://otter.ai
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