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Local pastors using alternate means to observe Holy Week

For Christians around the world, services this Sunday, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final days leading to the celebration of Easter.

But the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the world has cities and countries taking drastic measures, like mandated lockdown policies, to prevent the spread of the disease.

And those policies have forced many churches to adjust their services for one of the most sacred times of the liturgical year.

Locally, several pastors are turning to other means to help their flocks celebrate one of Christianity’s most sacred days.

“We will stream live an early service Easter Sunday, ” said the Rev. Casey Fisher, pastor of Greater Grove Street M.B. Church. “We have decided to take this pandemic seriously and stay home, but pandemic or not, the Resurrection occurred, and that’s not something we celebrate just on Easter Sunday, but every Sunday.”

The Rev. Sam Godfrey, pastor of Christ Episcopal Church, said he has been live streaming Sunday services and an 8:30 a.m. daily morning prayer service on Facebook. He will conduct Holy Week services the same way.

“We will have services on Palm Sunday and Maundy (Holy) Thursday and Good Friday. We will have Holy Week,” he said.

Godfrey said he will hold a Saturday Easter vigil service and a 10 a.m. service on Easter Sunday that will include the church organist.

“We are adjusting,” he said. “These times are very different. We do the best we can do in the times we have.

“Easter will come and we will get past this,” he said.

Local Catholics will be able to watch Holy Week services either through live streaming from their church or from the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson.

According to a letter from Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses will be streamed live from the cathedral in Jackson.

Palms, he said, will be blessed in the parishes, but pastors are asked to delay distribution until later, when the risk of transmitting the COVID-19 is greatly reduced or eliminated.

“It is disappointing to accept the reality that we will not be filling our churches throughout Holy Week, Easter, and early on during the Easter season,” Kopacz wrote.  “Yet, there are many positive signs that our mission to ‘proclaim Jesus the Savior by living the Gospel, so that all may experience the crucified and risen Lord,’ is alive and well even in the throes of the current austerity.”

The Rev. Bill Talbert, pastor of Solid Rock Pentecostal Church, said the church will have a drive-in service that will allow them to keep their social distance.

“We will have to play it by ear,” he said.

“We are going to keep the spirit of Easter,” said the Rev. Thomas Bernard, pastor of Travelers Rest Baptist Church.

He said the church’s Easter service will be held online.

“We will probably stream it on Facebook and Youtube, and we will have an Easter Bible study.

“You cannot stop the season; it’s just delayed,” he said, adding the church’s congregation will have its full Easter service at a later date.

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