During the many lockdowns since the first in March 2020, places of worship were closed to worshippers for the first time ever. Many Gurdwara’s (the place of worship for Sikhs) were also closed to the public during the lockdowns, such as the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Barking, East London.
The Sikh temple on the corner of North Street and Northern Relief Road was renovated and reopened after four and a half years under construction, two of those years which were during the pandemic. Due to restrictions, the local sangat (congregation), which often accumulated to over 1,000 worshippers in a week, were unable to take part in religious gatherings and prayers which is an integral part of living as a Sikh. The Langar service in the gurdwara, which is free food provided to anyone regardless of religion, was also affected as many people who relied on the langar to survive were not able to access it.
In an interview with Balwinder Singh Rai, the secretary of Barking Gurdwara, he explained how the gurdwara and local community’s kindness and perseverance helped those in need: ‘The Langar never stopped being produced during lockdown – we had a handful of volunteers who would do seva (religious volunteering) and make this food everyday as it would’ve been pre-lockdown. The food was then packed and then transported to places like care homes, local hospitals, charities and local councils, all free of charge as part of the gurdwara’s Langar. With the help of gurdwara workers and many young volunteers, who worked from 11 in the morning to evening, we were able to provide food to over 4,000 completely free of charge.’
The gurdwara also received an award for their voluntary service to the local community and their resilience through the pandemic, showcasing the contribution of the Sikh community.
Mr Rai also mentioned how the gurdwara utilised technology to stream religious prayers and kirtans (hymns) on platforms such as Zoom to provide worshippers with their daily prayers throughout the day. He mentioned that this solution engaged a large amount of people and enabled them to connect with gurdwara without physically being there, therefore it was highly successful.
In tough times, the gurdwara adapted in ways that were successful and promising, providing hope and reassurance to those struggling during the pandemic and their efforts will always be appreciated by the Sikh and local community in Barking.