Transcript: An Issaquah church adapts to the pandemic

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Todd Strange: There's no one way that anybody's coping through this pandemic.

Todd Strange: And I suppose if you ask any given person, on some days, they're coping with it fine, and other days, they're kinda at their wits' end.

Todd Strange: I get that, and there's sometimes I feel that way, too.

Todd Strange: Moments like this kind of arouse deeper philosophical questions in the hearts and minds of people.

Todd Strange: What's happening, what does this all mean? What can I count on? What matters in life?

Todd Strange: These moments where we're left in uncertainty.

Todd Strange: Initially, when I learned that we can't have public masses, before it all came crashing down on me, I sorta thought, I'm not gonna have anything to do.

Todd Strange: But I quickly realized, no, there's a lot we can and need to do. We just gotta figure it out.

(Organ music)

Todd Strange: Good morning, and welcome here to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Issaquah.

Todd Strange: We are streaming our Sunday masses on YouTube now at 9 a.m., rather than old time, old channel.


Todd Strange: The church, I think, in every age has always tried to maintain two things in balance.

Todd Strange: One is that there are some things that are unchanging. But then there are things always moving in its culture,  in its time, adapting.

Jill Carr: It is 11:30, and so time to pray our rosary.

Donna Stevenson: And we are going to be praying our Divine Mercy chaplet.

Tom Walker: We're gonna say the Angelus prayer, and we'll start with the ringing of the bell.

(Church bell rings)

Joe Donaghue: My wife and I started coming here 37 years ago. She's been gone now 11 years. The idea of not having mass, that was very tough.

Todd Strange: For us as Catholics, we're part of something much bigger than just us who gather within these four walls.

Todd Strange: We're able to keep a certain unity, even if it is experienced on a virtual level.

[Woman over Zoom] I am in Brookings, Oregon.

Todd Strange: My family all lives in Indiana, so I'm the only one that's out here. And for pretty much all my adult life, I've been far away.

Todd Strange: Well, I didn't grow up with a whole lot of experience in the faith, never really in my childhood had any kinda regular practice with any particular place.

Todd Strange: We lived near a place that was a Catholic church.

Todd Strange: I went, and was like, I don't know everything that's going on here, but there's something very meaningful that's going on.

Todd Strange: My parents, who are in their early 80s, we're talking a lot more with them and about them to make sure they're OK.

Todd Strange: Are there any particular causes, people in your heart, or anything that you would like us to bear in mind as we offer this prayer?

Todd Strange: I'd like to pray for my Aunt Joanne, who's near death, hanging on.

Todd Strange: They had an aunt. She exhibited what seemed to be coronavirus symptoms.

Todd Strange: She's one of those people who really got pretty close to, seemed like she was maybe gonna die, and is doing stronger for now, and so, yeah, I'm grateful for that.

Todd Strange: If we didn't have the hope that we hold that's at the root of our faith, I think I'd be lost in some ways.

Todd Strange: ’Cause then when we die, it's really just an end. Whereas we tend to say, as our understanding, life is changed, not ended at death. It's a threshold, and it's cause for hope.

Todd Strange: That beautiful privileged place that you get to be as a priest, in moments that mark people's lives

Todd Strange: The joyous moments, hope-filled moments, but also difficult moments. Marriages, baptisms, funerals, births.

Todd Strange: There's times when you're called, and it's a name and a person that you have no experience of, yet you're being asked to sort of be inserted into the midst of a family gathered around a bed of their loved one who is dying.

Todd Strange: To be kind of the stranger in the mix of all that intimacy, what a beautiful gift it is.

Todd Strange: With the distancing guidelines and all the infection control measures, we've had very few baptisms.

Todd Strange: I think I've had one wedding. When we've had those, there's such a sense of relief that, thank you, God, for the gift of this moment, even if it means all the weirdness of a priest wearing a mask on his face.

Todd Strange: Gov. Inslee provided sort of new guidelines to lighten restrictions, and they involved being able to celebrate mass outside.

Todd Strange: Thank you for being here. This is unusual. It feels like we should be going on a hike after this.

(Congregation laughs)

Todd Strange: People sitting on asphalt and on folding chairs, it doesn't befit the dignity of the mass, but it's a worthy step towards what we once did and are working towards.

Todd Strange: I will bring communion to you, but if in the off chance that my skin touches yours, I will pause and just come to sanitize as I've been instructed, but also you need to come just to sterilize your hands.

Todd Strange: It's a network, it's a family.

Todd Strange: When you add to that that you've been isolated, anything you can get back to that feels normal is going to be meaningful.

Joe Donaghue: This is my real home. I don't know how to put it any other way.

Todd Strange: There's a part of me, for sure, that misses things as they were months ago. But I also realize we need to start embracing the new.

Todd Strange: Make sure you aren't so preoccupied by the letdowns or frustrations that you fail to see the blessings in it all.