KALAMAZOO, Mich. — With people finding new ways to adapt to life amid the COVID-19 pandemic, documenting that life has become a priority for many organizations.
A team of Western Michigan University religion students and professors have created a national database collecting information on how different religious groups respond to the pandemic.
"History needs to be taught in order for society to be more prepared in future crises," Dr. Stephen Covell, department chair and professor of Japanese religions at the university, said.
Covell said religious groups with customs dating back hundreds of years were forced to change the way they worshiped during the pandemic. Many groups used technology like websites and social media to assist with those changes.
Covell said the team was searching the websites of religious organizations to gather Facebook posts, newsletters and more.
“Churches, mosques and temples, just like any place else, they've got websites and you update them, and you change them all the time and we really want to be able to capture some of that so it doesn't disappear,” Covell said.
Covell said the team had been working for weeks were still in the research phase. The ultimate goal was to compile the data, analyze it and hopefully use it as a teaching tool for students and professors in the future.
“We could talk about the Plague in Europe centuries ago, and that has a lot of great material for students. But to be able to talk about the material in the here and now that they are experiencing really lets them understand how much religion, religious organizations, religious beliefs impact their lives right in this moment. So, it’s been quite interesting,” Covell said.
He said there was still a lot of work to do, but the team hoped to have the database searchable by August.