With Palm Sunday and Easter around the corner, congregations are trying to figure out how to approach Holy Week in the year of COVID-19 — how to be both faithful and flexible with a season that’s full of meaning and tradition. Here are some of the ideas bouncing around the virtual conversation.
The basic advice for acquiring and distributing palms for worship is: Get creative. Make paper palms — maybe by tracing the hand of each person in the family (think: palms) and attaching those to branches. See what’s available in the garden or yard — one minister wrote on Facebook that “The Book of Common Worship says ‘seasonal branches’ – any will do!”
The Missionaries of the Holy Spirit posted this idea on their Facebook page:
What if everyone on Sunday April 5 in the morning, puts a branch on the door of their house or on the window, to celebrate Palm Sunday.
It could be any green branch you can get. This would help, despite the social distancing, to be connected as we enter into the Holiest of Weeks.
Want to join?
We may be physically isolated, but not separated. We are united as the members of the body of Christ. We are the Church.
Illustrated Ministry, which was started by PC(USA) minister Adam Walker Cleaveland, is offering a free downloadable palm frond coloring page. Congregations can post the link on their webpage or send it out by email. People can download it, color it and then wave it when participating in virtual worship with a congregation.
— Illustrated Ministry (@IllustratedMin) March 31, 2020
Outside: Do the virtual service outdoors (if the weather is good).
Emptiness: With empty pews and an empty tomb, build on the theme of emptiness.
“The first Easter was not trumpets, fanfare, communion, and lilies,” one pastor wrote. “It was confusion, disorientation, and even some fear … in the midst of the good news of resurrection. It would take them time to live into what Jesus resurrection meant for them and the world. Can we address both the uncertainty we are in today and the hope that Jesus’ resurrection affords us in the midst of that uncertainty?”
Everything, virtually. Some congregations plan a full Holy Week of services, all online. Some comments on that:
- “All on Zoom: Palm Sunday worship. Monday-Weds noon prayer. Maundy Thursday evening worship. Good Friday noon, seven words. Communion on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday.”
- “Passion Sunday as usual. I think there’s power for this moment in focusing on Christ’s sacrifice. And keeping some of the Holy Week traditions in place is comforting as well.”
Waiting. Some churches are thinking of having an extended Lent — of celebrating Palm Sunday first (maybe) and then Easter when the congregation gathers again together. Some online comments on that:
- “Since every Sunday is a Feast of the Resurrection, can we just declare Easter to be a more movable feast than it already is and celebrate it when we can once again gather?”
- “Our session has [recognized] that the season of Easter is longer than one day. We celebrate it every Sunday.”
- The idea of a “little Easter” on April 12 and a full celebration later.
- We’ll have Easter 1 virtually and Easter 2 when we’re back together.”
- “I’m thinking of extending this time of Lent. Sitting with the anxiety, the grief, the fear, the discomfort, the uncertainty. To seek the comfortable, or to celebrate resurrection in the midst of all this seems disingenuous. We will mention that it’s the day we would normally celebrate Holy Week and Easter, but simply that. We will celebrate when we are together again.”