A Story of How Holy Redeemer Church Responds to Covid-19 in Bangkok Thailand
Embracing distance rather than deserting its responsibility to their flock has been a rewarding endeavor by the Redemptorists made possible through technology. Technology has played a highly visible role in Holy Redeemer Church’s ministry and pastoral care under the “new normal” brought about by the coronavirus pandemic; most importantly by allowing continuity in connecting with its community, both Thais and non-Thais alike.
In early March 20, 2020, the church introduced alternative gathering by way of livestreaming daily/Sunday Masses and the Wednesday Mother of Perpetual Help novenas in English and in Thai languages. Interestingly, Holy Redeemer Church was the very first parish in Bangkok to begin broadcasting Masses through social media and recognized by Thai local news. Incorporated in the Mass after communion is the solemn recitation of the Redemptorist traditional Prayer for Spiritual Communion by St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. The prayer is recited both in English and Thai and is also widely used at all Thai churches for those unable to physically receive Holy Communion, especially for those under lockdown or in isolation in the midst of this pandemic.
At the same time, Holy Redeemer Church’s private and public worship services have not been cancelled. For the very few who occasionally attend services in person, Holy Communion is brought to them outside the church building.
Initially, the congregation was not so amenable to this kind of service. However, in line with the government’s restrictions on gatherings to control the spread of the coronavirus, the church has strongly encouraged the people to participate in worship only online through its Facebook or, most recently, via YouTube. Indeed, it is a different way to reimagine what it means to be part of the body of Christ.
Thanks to the technology-savvy Redemptorists in the like of Rev John the Baptist Worawut Saraphan, CSsR, leading a live-streaming revolution at Holy Redeemer Church Bangkok, and his support staff, to bring the Mass to anyone connected to the Internet. Now, its Facebook offers more creative varieties in its communication methods and up-to-the-minute information on its current ministries and activities, so triggering greater interest among its faithful followers and readers.
Interestingly, ahead of public health and government emergency guidelines, Holy Redeemer Church has stepped forward with faith, wisdom, and preparedness efforts to introduce what could possibly reduce the number of “touches” or physical contacts. The planning and preparedness for Covid 19 have included the following measures — reception of Holy Communion by hand only; holy water fonts have been emptied; sanitizers are made available at church entrances; its sanctuary is regularly fumigated; physical distancing in seating arrangement; the peace greetings are modified to a more Thai-style “wai” with the palms of the hands pressed together in a prayer-like gesture; and the regular confessions are held in confessional boxes rather than in a large private room in order to limit exposure.
As the Covid-19 pandemic disrupts the regular work, school, and social lives of many Thais, people are experiencing food insecurity due to furloughs and layoffs related to current stay-at-home policies. Responding to community needs, as of 27 April 2020, Holy Redeemer Church has launched a food distribution drive to help people in need.
A daily meal program, serving an average of 300 lunch boxes, is offered to the needy. Those who can come to the church receive lunch meals together with bottled drinking water from Monday to Friday by walk-up, keeping physical distancing between volunteers and recipients.
Thanks to our pastor, Rev John Wirach Amonpattana, CSsR, and all the parish priests who care for our spiritual, physical, emotional, social and health/safety needs, loving us as a Good Shepherd to meet the community’s needs and share the Gospel. What a blessing!
Their message of love and care prominently featured in its Facebook, “We miss you and pray for you” says it all. We miss you too and thank God for the gift of the Redemptorists!
A Story by Ruby Juanita Hoski, a Holy Redeemer Church parishioner and lay-collaborator.