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Coronavirus Update: Houses Of Worship See Rise In Online Services Streams

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As isolation due to coronavirus continues, more and more worshippers are watching services from the comfort of their home.

Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan delivered his sermon to an empty St. Patrick's Cathedral on Sunday morning, but thousands did listen to his message streamed online to keep the faith.

"The church is empty. One is tempted to feel alone. But we know better. We know better. We're never alone," Dolan said.

"As we continue to pray for those afflicted with the coronavirus, for those brave physicians and nurses, health care workers, who are tending to them," he added.

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As churches, synagogues, mosques, and Hindu temples remain closed indefinitely, religious leaders like Rabbi Mark Wildes, the founder of Manhattan Jewish Experience, are finding new ways to delivering their sermons -- directly to your living room -- like on Facebook Live, CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported.

"In Jewish tradition, you can pray at home. You don't need a synagogue to pray, per se," Wildes said.

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To stay connected, places of worship like the Inter-Denominational Times Square Church in Manhattan played services on screens outside, for those odd few who might be wandering by. And many signs can be seen on doorways saying: join us for church online.

Staying inside his Lower East Side apartment, Riz Ridwan is doing just that.

"My home church, they did a Facebook Live about an hour ago, a very simple service. Some practical tips about how to deal with this pandemic," Ridwan said.


With people tuning into services on their TVs and computers, religious leaders say they have seen a spike in remote turnout.

Michael Fratt a who runs streaming services at Times Square Church, said, "Normally, on any given Sunday, streaming is live. It's probably about 2,000. Today, we had almost 5,000 streaming us live."

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Monsignor Kieran Harrington has also seen an online increase at the Brooklyn diocese.

"What we have noticed is a surge on our web traffic," Harrington said. "At a time when people are being told they have to social distance, we want to make sure that people know God is very close to them.

Hindu leaders are encouraging worshippers to pray at home with their families, and Muslim mosques are doing the same. The Islamic Cultural Center of New York is inviting people to take a 3D virtual tour and seek assistance from Allah during these difficult times.

All religions and faiths are coming together and encouraging everyone to focus on unity.

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