ISKCON Temple of Greater Chicago is based in Naperville, a growing suburb of Chicago, Illinois, USA. The temple moved to its current location a few years back and since then, the community has been growing exponentially. Looking at the growth, there is need for a commercial kitchen, community hall along with additional space to conduct different programs for children, youth, devotees and other community members, and thus a new temple construction plan was in motion.
And then COVID came along! While there was initial apprehension about conducting devotional activities in person at the temple, safety became the topmost prerogative. But that only created more opportunities for us to engage with the community.
The devotees quickly adapted to the new normal which was to do everything online with limited physical presence. The fact that so many senior leaders across ISKCON started delivering lectures online also helped devotees with plenty of spiritual content.
During such a session, a child asked Romapada Swami as to “Why do devotees have to go through such a thing like COVID?”
Romapada Swami said “Don't think it's bad. Krishna has taken special care of devotees. Covid has given us the opportunity to do things that we were not able to do earlier. We are saving travel time of 1-2 hours every day. We can use that time to read books, listen to lectures, and do things that we always wanted to do but were not able to do due to lack of time!!"
While moving things online, the community started daily Srimad Bhagavatam lectures in the morning and Srimad Bhagvatam reading clubs for parents across multiple groups at different times during the week. The Sunday School, the Bhakti Sastri Program were also moved online.
To ensure that devotee children are also associated with their friends, the temple started a daily Kids Reading Club, led by Mohan Lila Das (Lead Sunday School Teacher) with volunteer support from parents. It was very effective in engaging kids in two different groups every day. They read books on the six Goswamis of Vrindavan, the glorious life of Srila Narottama Das Thakur, the Ocean of Mercy by Bhakti Charu Swami, in association with other children.
When the pandemic situation stabilized a bit, on Sundays, the community also got together virtually and with limited physical presence, maintaining all social distancing guidelines to offer periodic touch-free and drive-through prasadam distribution.
Members of the Food for Life team
They also celebrated various events, such as Janmashtami, Balaram Jayanti, or Kartik in virtual, “touch-free” manner, but with a lot of enthusiasm.
The community continued to run its monthly Food for Life program, where they distribute prasadam to homeless and less privileged families in the neighboring areas.
With all these sessions and events happening on a daily and weekly basis, the community is connected and bonded like never before. They plan to build on the momentum and continue to hold festivities, start construction work while following all the social distancing guidelines and keep helping each other grow spiritually together.
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For more details about the programs of ISKCON Temple of Greater Chicago (Naperville), please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. ISKCON Naperville community can also be found on facebook here, and online here. To reach the author of this post, you can reach on email@example.com[ illinois ] [ naperville ] [ online ] [ pandemic ] [ virtual ]