By March 29, 2020 Read More →

When large gatherings are banned, how do Appalachians keep the faith?

Liz Carey, with 100 Days in Appalachia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice isn’t afraid to ask God to guide his state through the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In a proclamation issued this week, Justice said that West Virginia’s “steadfast and abiding belief in God,” led him to declare March 25 a statewide Day of Prayer. But because of restrictions on gathering in large groups, Justice opted to lead that prayer online.At noon on Wednesday, Justice broadcast a live stream of religious leaders from several different faiths, all praying for the health, safety and well-being of West Virginians. 

“You know, I am a man of prayer and I am proud of it. The blessings that we have are unlimited and yet we have struggles,” Justice said. “Today we are facing a monumental struggle. I thought about this today and I thought I am nowhere near professional in order to offer a prayer. But I feel like I need to say a prayer for all of us.” Justice said. 

During the hour-long broadcast, Justice led a prayer himself, asking for a higher power to hear the voices of millions around the world and intervene. “I know in my heart that the only way will defeat this terrible disease is through your intervention,” the governor prayed.

In a region where religion is a way of life, especially in times of crisis, social distancing and prohibitions on large groups put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic are forcing religious leaders, and religious communities, to reinvent how to worship. While most places of worship have closed their doors, they’re proving that “church” is not limited to a building. …

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