Faith during the Covid pandemic – photo essay

Reading from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book
My mum bowing down to the Guru Granth, the holy book
My parents in Slough outside their local temple, Ramgarhia Sikh gurdwara. Behind them is the sacred Khanda flag, a sign for all Sikhs and people from other faiths that they can come and pray in this building

  • My parents outside their local temple, Ramgarhia Sikh gurdwara, in Slough. Behind them is the Khanda flag, a sign for all Sikhs and people from other faiths that they can come here and pray

My parents are Sikhs and before the pandemic they would go every Sunday to their local gurdwara (temple), a two-minute walk from our home. It’s a place to meet other people, friends in the community and above all listen to prayer and kirtan music.

They would also participate in the langar activities. This involves serving and distributing food to the congregation as part of seva (selfless service). For Sikhs, eating together is an important means of expressing oneness of belonging regardless of an individual’s background.

Our temple recently reopened its small hall for brief services. For my mother this has been really important as it has given her some hope in these challenging times. My mother prefers the quietness and calmness of solitude and prayer. My dad, on the other hand, has taken refuge in his daily hour-long walks.

The Rev Al Gordon on stage at St John at Hackney church, east London
A member of the congregation in prayer at St John at Hackney church, east London
Sophie Howard at St John at Hackney church

Sophie is a Christian and would regularly attend her local church before lockdown restrictions. “Church is the moment in my week when I reset, gain perspective and refuel to tackle the week ahead,” she says.

During lockdown there were online services available on the church’s website, to which Sophie had access. “Online church was great, but with a toddler watching cartoons on a screen next to me, it was only a partial refresh.”

When the church opened its doors in March for the first time I photographed Sophie with her family. “I believe that something powerful happens when people come together, sharing a faith together, it encourages one’s own beliefs and spirituality.”

Sophie Howard’s daughter Pearl draws at St John at Hackney church
Eleanor Soar, my mother-in-law, visits All Saints church in Holbrook, Suffolk

  • Eleanor Soar, my mother-in-law, visits All Saints church in Holbrook, Suffolk

My mother-in-law, Eleanor Soar, lives on her own in a small village in Suffolk. She was raised as a Quaker and describes herself broadly as a Christian but leans more towards spirituality.

During lockdown she began regular visits to her local church, which was open twice a week for private prayers. It was a different place from being at home and even the walk to the church gave her a sense of purpose. She found the church “quiet, peaceful and a calming place to sit and have time for reflection”. “I never felt alone sitting in the church, knowing its history of people coming here for hundreds of years.”

My mother-in-law lives on her own in a small village in Suffolk
The sitting granthi reverently fans the scripture of the Guru Granth Sahib at Ramgarhia Sikh gurdwara
Sophie Howard with her daughter Pearl, outside St John at Hackney church in March
Eleanor Soar leaves All Saints church in Holbrook

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