As religious services went online to protect congregants from the coronavirus, a paradox emerged: Worshipers were connected via the internet to a potentially wide community, but it felt like a more private affair.
Yes, such Zoom services are viewable by audiences worldwide. But this diverted attention, if not attendance, away from many small, local congregations struggling to survive. While many have liked this new format, there has also been criticism.
This is not the first time tensions between private worship and public expressions of religion have been felt. As a scholar of the Bible, Judaism and Christianity, I am aware that even thousands of years ago private piety and public expressions of religion existed in a delicate balance – one that is not a simple either/or proposition.