Disrupted Peace

A child interrupts a Muslim imam as he leads an online discussion during Ramadan. Screenshot by Garrett Christian Gaines.

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted our lives. It disrupted schools, businesses, entertainment venues, and religious institutions. It made us learn, work, and pray remotely, often blurring the boundaries between home and away, private and public, and religious and secular. Via Zoom and live streaming, worship services entered our living rooms and bedrooms, while the sounds of domestic life impinged upon those services in turn. Slow or unstable internet connections limited our communal participation. “Please mute your microphone” entered our religious vocabularies.

The clips in this playlist offer examples of how religious worship was disrupted during the time of COVID. Many of these examples are quite mundane. A baby’s cry interrupts her father’s sermon. A speaker stops to respond to a cell phone ring or notification alert. A participant interjects to inquire about audio quality. Unstable internet connection causes a momentary break or distortion. These sonic disruptions can signal more profound shifts and transformations, however. They make audible how difficult it was to sustain concentration on any single task or activity during this time. They demonstrate how factors like unequal access to broadband internet or the technological limitations of platforms like Zoom impeded communal worship. And they remind us of the choices communities had to make about whether to mute, thereby centering the voice of a single leader or speaker, or unmute–and embrace the cacophony of multiple asynchronous voices, joining together yet not quite together at the same time.

– Isaac Weiner
Online Bible study

A FaceTime call interrupts Pastor John K. Jenkins, Sr. as he leads an online Bible study session.

Contributor: Anonymous
Date: 03/31/2020

Hindu service bells

A Hindu priest rings bells and chants during a worship service on YouTube.

Contributor: D’Arcee Charington Neal
Date: 03/16/2021

Sound bath meditation

An unstable internet connection periodically interrupts a Facebook Live sound bath meditation with singing bowls.

Contributor: Amy DeRogatis
Date: 04/11/2020

Buddhist meditation

An unstable internet connection periodically interrupts a Buddhist Facebook Live meditation session.

Contributor: Skylar Berlin
Date: 04/11/2020

Islamic Ramadan lesson

The sounds of rapid typing interrupt an online Islamic Ramadan lesson about the goals of Islam.

Contributor: Anonymous
Date: 05/11/2020

Qur'anic recitation

A Muslim man and woman discuss and check audio quality during an online Qur’anic recitation focused on Juz 7.

Contributor: Samantha Smith
Date: 04/28/2020

Protestant home communion

Ambient sounds and vocalizations intrude as a mother and her two children follow a live-streamed Communion and conduct their own Communion at home.

Contributor: Jenny Wiley Legath
Date: 05/03/2020

Muslim Imam interrupted by child

A Muslim imam attempts to discuss the Qur’an and its teachings online as his child makes noise in the background.

Contributor: Garrett Gaines
Date: 05/01/2020

Gospel song

An unstable internet connection and a beeping phone interrupt a previously incarcerated woman as she sings a gospel song during an Ohio Prison Arts Connection Facebook Live event.

Contributor: Lauren Pond
Date: 05/08/2020

Wiccan Cone of Power interrupted

Members of a Wiccan coven attempt to chant rhythmically together over Zoom but decide to mute themselves when an internet lag interferes.

Contributor: Lauren Pond
Date: 05/07/2020

Online Wiccan Lugnasadh

Members of a Wiccan coven discuss the effects of technology on their Lugnasadh ritual, which celebrated the first day of the autumn harvest.

Contributor: Lauren Pond
Date: 08/01/2020

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