A virtual Easter celebration
- Posted on April 10, 2020
- Estimated reading time 2 minutes
To say it has been a chaotic and rocky journey to Easter this year is an understatement. The whole world seems to have changed, and our practices and traditions are either canceled or feel like they’ve been upended and reconfigured. Even my Christian worship activities and relationship to my church (and church family) has had to adjust in light of COVID-19.
Take Holy Week – the most important and holy time in the Christian faith – which recalls the events of the week that led up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s the week our world changed and Christianity was born. It starts with Palm Sunday, which recounts Jesus’s triumphal entrance into the city of Jerusalem, while crowds waved palms and shouted “Hosanna!” (an expression of adoration or praise). Our church usually re-enacts this parade before our service by gathering outside the sanctuary and processing in while waving palms and singing together. There is joy, but we also talk about sin in the world, that we are waiting for the prophesies about Jesus Christ to be fulfilled, and the promise of God’s love for us.
Then comes the “Triduum” — or Great Three Days — of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Maundy Thursday focuses on Jesus’ last supper with his disciples and subsequent betrayal. Good Friday commemorates the day when Jesus gave his life to save us from our sins, and the service is humbling. We focus on the experience of Jesus as he was tried and crucified on the cross. We talk of grief and the price that was paid for our redemption, and the sanctuary gets darker and darker before we leave in silence.
Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, who has overcome death, and the service is again joyful, with talk of rebirth and salvation. This is the biggest day in our church calendar, and we pull out all the stops – lots of trumpets playing, people singing, bells ringing. It is the loudest and most beautiful service of the year! We greet each other with “He is risen!” and respond with “He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!” After church, we host a big Easter dinner for our extended family, with lots of family favorite foods.
Holy Week can feel like a rollercoaster of sin, redemption, joy and pain. It is a lot to process. It is mostly celebrated at church, with your church family – all the people you worship with regularly or irregularly and who support and encourage you throughout your life. We sing together and pray together and take life’s challenges together — Easter is a great example of that.
But this year? With COVID-19, fear and grief are ever-present. Through “social distancing,” we’re caring for each other and our community by not coming together, even for Easter. Our church is hosting virtual services and has sent suggestions for ways we can observe Holy Week in our homes, but it simply won’t be the same. Palm Sunday was spent at our breakfast table, watching our Pastors lead service on the laptop screen, praying, singing hymns and typing comments into the chat window. No palms. No parade. Different.
Changing congregational worship from an in-person to a virtual approach has its challenges, but for me, working for such a tech savvy company like Avanade, I have learned how to flex and develop a comfort level with changing technology and approaches. So different is just that – different. It isn’t bad. And there are opportunities that come with the change, like working through these approaches so that in future we can offer more flexibility in how people can participate in our church community. It’s forcing us to think outside our comfort zone – and that is good.
This year we will maintain the traditions we can and find new ways to celebrate. Instead of making a big dinner, we have placed a take-out order with a restaurant to support the local economy. We will video-call our friends and family and find different ways to connect with people and with the spectrum of human experience. I will participate in our virtual services and expect I will again go through all of the emotions and come out the other end knowing that these emotions, like COVID-19, are not permanent – but God’s grace and love for us is.
Editor’s Note: Holy Week is the most important holiday in the Christian tradition, and while our offices are not generally open on Easter Sunday, the days of Holy Week are full of preparation and services for many of our Christian employees. Please take this into consideration when planning meetings and timelines.