Ready, Set, GOARCH: The effect of church leadership during a pandemic

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of (virtual) America


The current pandemic has taught us how to bake bread, sew face masks, become Tik-Tok famous and, most of all, how to reconnect with family and friends. In devoutly religious homes, this pandemic has also forced the faithful to learn how to connect with their fellow worshippers in a different way. Whether through live video calls, online groups or blogs, religious temples have attempted to keep their parishes as tight-knit as possible. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOARCH), a sect of the Eastern Christian faith, has made immense changes to adapt to the “new normal” we’re all facing.         

Recently, the Archdiocese had a change in leadership. Since his appointment as the leader of the Archdiocese, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros has made numerous changes in the church. Before the pandemic hit, His Eminence learned how to navigate Twitter, Instagram and Facebook —- now he is emphasizing the use of technology and social media platforms for youth outreach and mass communications. Though his Instagram posts are few, he is demonstrating  an immense effort in making thoughtful reflections about the church through an online platform.        

Though being active on social media is important, the pandemic demonstrated a need for virtual church meetings. The Greek Orthodox Parish is composed of worshippers of all ages, but there is a large following of older parishioners who are not very tech savvy. Regardless of how knowledgeable members are about technology, the church still had to figure how mass could function online. The Eucharist, for instance, has no way of being given virtually and it is doubtful that the church could ship it overnight it like an Amazon Prime order. It also cannot possibly be given in grab-and-go bags like the New York City lunch program. Like most during the pandemic, the Archdiocese has also had financial concerns. Donations were not collected from parishioners on Sundays anymore, raising concerns about how these churches could possibly stay afloat. 

Luckily, the tech-savvy, youth-oriented, thoughtful Archbishop came to the rescue. His ability to lead a continent of parishes through these difficult times was tested and resulted in success. His Eminence compiled a Digital Toolkit for the parishes, outlining how to conduct webinars, file for government aid, set up PayPal donation sites, use Facebook and teach the youth. Multiple applications were created, including the GOARCH app, which can be downloaded on AppleTV, Roku and Amazon Fire to view live service broadcasts. Lesson plans were devised for parents to fill students in on Sunday School lectures they would miss. Not only was the Archdiocese creating a space for live online worship, but they essentially created an online Sunday School and became the Geek Squad for teaching about internet-based resources.       

My family and I attended Good Friday mass by watching a live broadcast from the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manhattan. Despite the circumstances, my family was still provided a space for prayer and some solace — in our living room. Thanks to the Archdiocese’s leadership, my worries about the health crisis, the future and my ability to pray were eased as my hand made the sign of the cross over my heart.