When Christians are in crisis, or feel like celebrating, they gather in groups. That’s not going to happen this Easter.
“We gather together and it’s our one-on-one personal contact with each other that’s so important,” said Bishop Ronald Fabbro, who oversees the 104 Roman Catholic parishes in the Diocese of London. “It’s going to be really different this year.”
The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it social distancing, which runs counter to the social spirit of Easter, the central annual observance of the Christian calendar. How important is Easter? “Every Sunday is a smaller celebration of Easter,” said Bishop Todd Townshend of the Anglican Huron Diocese, which includes more than 150 churches. “It’s what helps us interpret everything in life.”
Churches have closed. Confession is cancelled. Many of the faithful are fearful.
So faith groups are moving ahead as best they can, knowing these are times for which there are few precedents.
“I’ll be celebrating alone at the cathedral,” Fabbro said. “It’s going to be very different and personally it’s going to be very strange for me.”
That event will be broadcast online, then posted for others to access. “Everybody will be invited to join us.”
“We’re going to be taping those celebrations. So that will be the central way that we’ll do that for our diocese,” he said, adding individual priests may opt to connect via a livestream to for their own congregations.
Townshend said Easter will go forward for Anglicans, but with a different focus
“We’re providing resources for people” in the form of written and online material, so followers can “have smaller rituals in their own home.”
“The idea is you can stay home and still celebrate,” Townshend said, adding he realizes not everyone has a place they can call home. He says groups of people in his flock have already been using technology to satisfy their need to reach out, connect and be part of a community. “They stayed connected by phone all week long anyway.”
“It draws something new out of you,” he said of these trying times. “We’ve seen people become much more generous.”
And even though celebrating in person at a church is out of the question, Easter still will be a communal experience.
“I think our people will find encouragement in needing to do things a new way, but everybody’s in the same boat,” Townshend said.
Fabbro said during the SARS crisis of 2003, when he was in his second year as bishop, there were limits placed on communion due to health concerns. “Even that was hard for people,” he said.
But despite the fact confession is not possible for Catholics, Fabbro noted each individual can still perform an act of contrition.
“God understands” what we’re all going through right now, he said.