Alexandria, VA

Rabbi David Spinrad of Alexandria’s Beth El Hebrew Congregation is having trouble preparing inspiring sermons for the high holidays, which start next month. He’s been struggling to find the right words that will help people during challenging times.

“I’m not okay, you’re not okay, nobody is okay,” Spinrad said in a recent Facebook Live chat for Act for Alexandria. “The pastoral need has been extraordinary, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Spinrad was joined by Pastor Thomas James from Washington Street United Methodist Church, and Stacey Picard from Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center to talk about how their communities are reacting to the coronavirus. Like most religious organizations, their services are online and much of their efforts have been dedicated to providing food for their communities and spiritual counseling.

The pandemic forced Beth El to shut down a daycare program and lay off a number of staffers.

“That lack of being able to really gather has really hurt our soul,” Spinrad said.

James said that he’s exhausted, and that it is challenging for parishioners to log in to church services on their computers or phones after the end of weeks full of online chats.

“I think that the biggest challenge for me is finding the space to rest… so that you have the strength to continue,” James said. “Any 10 minute period where you can just close your eyes and not be engaged is extremely important in this season of life… because it doesn’t seem like COVID is going away, it’s very apparent that racial inequity is not going away. We have to be prepared to do this, not for the next month but for the next few months, for the next year, the next couple of years.”

The hardest part, James says, is not being able to spend time with people, even though his church provides a daily breakfast and gives out food to the community at Charles Houston Recreation Center.

“Someone who’s in the hospital and is sick or is dying, you can’t go see them, the hospitals won’t let you in,” he said. “When there’s a funeral to be had, having 100 people in the worship space is not possible. So you’re doing a very small abbreviated service at the graveside. Weddings? I can’t tell you how many people have called me and said, ‘Would you just please come and marry us, because we’re supposed to get married three months ago and we’re tired of pushing it off.'”

Picard, whose worshippers practice in Falls Church, said that small donations have made just as much a difference as larger donations. The Islamic Center had to suspend more than a dozen social services programs indefinitely and shift resources for food distributions to the Culmore community, which borders on Alexandria’s West End.

“Each day you know there’s a woman who has consistently been delivering small bags of hand sewn masks, every so often when she has them ready,” Picard said. “Don’t discount the small ways that we just connect with each other and act in, in, in whatever way we can with whatever we have.”

ACT Now Tuesday Talk – Faith Community

#HappeningNow – ACT Now Tuesday Talk with Rabbi David Spinrad from Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Pastor Thomas James from Washington Street United Methodist Church, and Stacey Picard from Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center are sharing how their faith communities are responding to COVID-19.

Posted by ACT for Alexandria on Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Photo via Beth El Hebrew Congregation/Facebook

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