Photo by @nataliekeyssar / Throughout history, people have turned to faith and ritual during times of crisis, often becoming more observant when confronted with loss and uncertainty. To explore this idea, I spent the past few weeks traveling across Alabama, one of the most religious U.S. states, according to the Pew Research Center, to look at how faith has intersected with one of the most difficult years anyone can remember.

The Flatline Church at Chisholm in Montgomery, led by Pastor Dewayne Rembert, opened up two years ago with a mission to help the community and focus on outreach to the poor. When the pandemic hit, they moved to drive-in services to protect their congregation while still connecting with them and offering support. On March 28, as storms rolled into the area, Pastor Rembert decided to hold their first indoor services in a year, citing increased levels of vaccination and lower virus levels. They carefully blocked off seating for social distancing, required masks, opened doors for ventilation, and sat separated by family group. Associate Pastor Keelan Adams gave a passionate service to a small but emotional group of attendees, moved by their first time being together following such a hard year. After the service, church volunteers served food to anyone in the area who was hungry, as part of the church’s mission to serve—despite the obstacles in its path.

It's been a joy and an honor to spend time during these pivotal days with spiritual leaders and communities over these past few weeks. Thank you so much to everyone who let me join them for these beautiful, hopeful moments. And huge thanks @insidenatgeo for the generous support for this project, publishing in full soon on @natgeo . Follow me @Nataliekeyssar for more stories of resilience during crisis.

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