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Stories of Holy Week and Easter 
in a time of Global Pandemic

Mon 27, Apr 2020

Holy Week and Easter in 2020 were very different for us in Australia because of the restrictions that had become necessary because of the coronavirus. Of course, we were not alone in this: ABM’s Overseas Partners also found themselves worshipping very differently this year.

So that Australian Anglicans can become prayerfully aware of the situation our Overseas Partners found themselves in, we present some of their stories from around the globe.

 

Activity Partners

 

Anglican Church of Kenya

Thanks so much for your mail and the message of togetherness. May the Lord have mercy on us. 

This is a time that we need to pray together like never before. Jesus Christ himself had to go with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with them. Even though the disciples could not pray but their presence meant a lot during that hour of prayer. 

We are faced with circumstances more or less the same as those in Australia. More the same because of the interruption of the spiritual life of the church. Less the same because of the different health services and the availability. 

As we celebrate this Holy Week, homes have been turned into prayer rooms / houses. Families are having worship services at home. The physical, link between Christians has been disrupted and people are trying to adapt to the service of family members. More messages are being passed through social media between the church members and their worship leaders. Some are having streamed services and sermons. In some parishes, like the cathedral church, are having daily programs where message and sermons are streamed either live or recorded to the Christians who receive them through Facebook, or You Tube. 

For the rural parishes more is done in homes and the leaders pray in the church where they program that one person goes per day. In all these people try to follow the restrictions from the authorities as much as possible. 

This kind of system/services has affected other church services like pastoral visits, because of social distancing, and offerings. 

On the other hand, the Corona Virus pandemic has given a new meaning to family togetherness. The home worship has brought family members more closely and bonded. Talents and gifts are being exposed and exercised. Without this some talents might have not been exercised. 

The Holy and Easter week has awoken the reality and importance of prayer in people’s lives. The diocese has impressed upon the clergy to be in touch with the Christians at this time of the pandemic. Easter Sunday services were done online in our urban churches but rural churches were done at homes.  

With the reality of social distancing, lockdown and the fear that comes with the fear of contracting the virus people seem to become more unsocial, not like before where one could welcome someone from a far town very enthusiastically. Remember this is a time when those who have been working or studying away from home could join their families to celebrate Easter together. This pandemic has brought a massive change to this family socialization. 

May the Lord God bless you abundantly and protect you and your family as you strive to stay safe during this pandemic time.  

– The Ven Benjamin Biwott , Diocese of Eldoret, Diocesan Administrative Secretary


 

Anglican Church of Melanesia

The Holy Week and Easter commemorations for 2020 are unlike those of the past years. While Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were then still amongst the very few countries in the world that have not had reported positive cases of the corona virus then, Vanuatu had already stopped large Church gatherings before Holy Week and Easter mostly because of reported cases of the virus in nearby New Caledonia. Most people in Vanuatu spent both Holy and Easter in family worship. The celebrations of both events in Vanuatu was further disrupted by Tropical Cyclone Harold that devastated some islands of the country just before Palm Sunday.

In the Solomon Islands, despite the threat of the virus and advice for social distancing, people still flooded Churches both in towns and in the rural areas to celebrate both the Good Friday and Easter. To many people, these two events are so important as far as their faith is concerned that they cannot be anywhere else apart from in Church. In addition, the vast majority, even in those towns, do not have access to the technology that could enable the on-line streaming of Church services. The fact that we have no reported cases of the virus gave people the confidence to attend Church even they will be part of a large congregation.

– Dr Abraham Hauriasi, Provincial Secretary, ACOM


 

Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea

 

Fr Wilson Makele at PNG Martyrs Parish, Kimbe, New Britain, PNG. © ACPNG, 2020. Used with permission.

Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea

Greetings to you in Christ Name. I thank you your email that was send to me regarding the services in our church's holy days in this Pandemic. 

We in the New Guinea Islands diocese have most parishes in the rural area along the South coast of New Britain island which Pandemic doesn't really affect them or becomes their concern so they celebrate the holy days as normal services. But we issued s reserve standard liturgical order for use at this period as it directed from the Archbishop's office. We in urban parishes have changed our services in the church to our Small Faith Communities (SFCs) by following the precautions measures set by the Government through the SoE authorities. All Christians remain in their SFCs and we priests visited them and conduct services. It brings the joy and blessings of the Holy days right to their door step all have experience. We continue to conduct services in that manner right up to the 60days SoE period.

I didn't take many photos from many services that I conduct. But are the only ones took.

Our Diocesan health and CPP team have gone out at end of March to conduct awareness throughout the Diocese. Now we are preparing to go out again for another awareness and observations. When we have done it I will report back to you. 

Thanks and God bless.

– Fr Wilson Makele, Vicar General, PNG Martyrs Kimbe Parish

Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea

Young man holding palm cross decoration on Palm Sunday. © ACPNG, 2020. Used with permission.

 


 

Church of the Province of Central Africa (Zambia)

Easter greetings. COVID-19 still poses a challenge on how to reach out to parishioners and how the members have financially supported the parish. However, members have been reached out electronically via phone calls, SMS, face book, WhatsApp, and physical presence with sanitizer. Others have visited our home. Social distance has been maintained. Masks shall be considered, too. Offering: has dropped by 60%. Modes of collection is through section/ cell leaders and a few through the Treasurer's air tell mobile money account. Further challenges are: 1. Lack of adequate equipment such as camera, sound speakers, mixers to quality publicity in streaming our sermons. My regards.

– Fr Christopher Koloko, Diocese of Lusaka


 

Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

A Special Covid19 celebration of Holy Week

The wisdom of self-isolation in the midst of a pandemic has been recognised as a moral imperative in the past few weeks. Isolation policies began in Bahrain in the very early part of March and as a congregation we wrestled with the prospect of closing worship. We carefully monitored government health advisories, which were not always clear, about public gatherings. But, in conversations with the government body that oversees non-Islamic charities (including churches) I conveyed our intention to continue public worship as long as mosques were open for prayer. For Muslims, forbidding communal prayer is a very serious consideration and in general we experienced deep understanding of the importance of maintaining the cycles of prayer in the cathedral in our conversations with government representatives.

Eventually though, as the news of the pandemic became more frightening, and more threatening, the decision to prohibit prayers in any groups of more than five was made and we closed the cathedral compound for our congregation - and the 40 guest congregations who also use various worship spaces on the cathedral compound for their gatherings. It became increasingly clear that the crisis would not ‘go away’ quickly, leading to some discussions about “online worship” as an option. It is fortunate that I have been using Zoom to communicate with my family scattered in different locations in the world so I proposed the Zoom platform as the best way to continue interactive worship (as opposed to what I would characterise as spectator worship). This allows our congregation to share in the liturgical responses, sing together along with the celebrant, and even visually greet each other during the sharing of the peace and chatter together online after the service. 

Certainly, we continued to learn about the limits of the technology as we worshiped through the last part of Lent together. It didn’t take long for the various regular weekly services to be established with separate repeatable links. The congregation was wonderfully helpful in making suggestions about adjusting the technology to work more practically for us all. The “tweaking” of how/where to place the computer within reach on the altar so the keyboard would remain accessible to manage the sharing of music and lyrics, muting noisy participants, and even experimenting with placement to deal with backlight coming through the magnificent stained-glass window behind the altar – all is resolved now and we are worshiping together well in our different places of isolation.

The challenge of Holy Week, with the limitation of how the screen would reflect processions, stripping the altar on Maundy Thursday, the ceremony of lighting the Easter Candle, and other considerations all figured into the planning for doing things differently. We asked people to get palms for themselves to hold up during the blessing prayer over the basket of palm crosses already prepared for Palm Sunday. The palms blessed in the service have been left on the church porch for people to pick up as they may pass by the church while doing their necessary errands. We opted to forego foot-washing and focus on the institution of the Eucharist as a different covenantal meal for a new covenant people for our Maundy Thursday celebration. The presentation of the veneration of the cross and procession on Good Friday proved to be a challenge but some mutual creativity made it all work well. Likewise, the lighting of the Easter Candle during the Vigil service… Many other aspects of our local traditions have had to be adjusted to “fit on the screen”. 

Through it all we have maintained our sense of community. The oddness of the situation means that we’ve also been able to invite family and friends in different time zones to join us in worship without conflicting with their worship in their own church communities. It has turned out to be a very enriching way of linking our spiritual lives with our families in our home countries. It has also turned out to be very reassuring to be linked together in a completely new way, in a particular expression of ‘things as normal (that aren’t normal)’, encouraging our families that life and worship goes on here and everywhere, without respect to distance, isolation, and uncertainty.

I sincerely hope we will never experience another Holy Week / Easter celebration like this one, but at the same time, I am glad for the knowledge that one day we will all look back and wonder at the amazing things God did for us in our time of need.

–The Ven Dr Bill Schwartz, OBE, Archdeacon in the Gulf

 

Holy Week Services at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Ahmadi, Kuwait: 5-12 April 2020

Background

St Paul’s Anglican Church is located in the State of Kuwait and a lockdown due to COVID-19 was declared by the Government on 24 February 2020. In compliance with the Cabinet stipulations on prevention including banning of public gatherings, no services were conducted from 25 February to date. Our church is a centre for 20 other congregations which were all affected.

Services

The Palm Sunday service was conducted via ZOOM and well subscribed with 30 participants. During Holy Week, church members received reflective resources including some from the Diocesan Retreats Facilitator, Maggie Le-Roy. The Maundy Thursday service was also conducted via ZOOM and the sermon included part of the thoughts shared by Archbishop Michael. On Good Friday the Liturgy of the Seven Last Words of Jesus and prayers of hope were major highlights. Participation by church members increased to 35. The Easter Sunday Sunrise service, traditionally held at the British Embassy Gardens, Kuwait City, was conducted via ZOOM at 6.30pm on Easter Day. Many people including our host, the British Ambassador, felt quite affected by this change. Some people were at home and others were at work. Attendance increased to 40 people. Though live streaming via ZOOM brings us together, there is a strong feeling that COVID-19 has affected the church, socially, spiritually and financially. Part of our church membership is living in an area are under total lockdown and cannot move beyond their residential zone. We reach out to one another via phone calls and social media including ZOOM. Despite these challenges, the mood among Christians is that of hope in Christ for a better tomorrow and the Easter Season this year is inspirational.

– The Rev Michael Mbona, Rector and Chaplain, St Paul’s Anglican Church, Diocese of Cyprus and The Gulf


 

Relational Partners

 

Anglican Church of Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Many nice greetings from Auckland, NZ. Christ is risen, alleluia!

I am writing this reflection on Easter Wednesday, three weeks into Level 4 lockdown introduced by the Government of Aotearoa New Zealand to all of us living here.

The introduction itself was a fast-developing event. In two days, we have moved from level 2 to level 4, so the period of adjustment was like a whirlwind. Being one of the team members in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland, I was part of the team that set up the priorities for the period of lockdown. Two main priorities were: liturgical life of the worshipping community and pastoral support and connection of the community. Being confined to our homes, we have decided to be daily visibly present with our prayers online. In this way we wanted to assist our people to establish the prayer routine for our community, with Evening prayer on working days and Liturgy of the Word and Spiritual Communion on Sundays. In this period of lockdown, as our communities are deprived of receiving Holy Communion, we all share in solidarity in that deprivation from the sacraments of the Church. It is a real Eucharistic fast and desert, but equally it is a strong focus on the essence of our faith and that is that the presence of the risen Christ is constant in the church and world and that presence can be seen in different ways. Many have responded and found consolation in those services. 

Nevertheless, for many, social media are not the most personal way of communication. So, in order to stay connected and in contact with all those who wish, and in order that we look after one another, we chose a very traditional way of being in touch – phone tree! Parishioners call parishioners, in order to remind each other that we are connected and not left to ourselves. And it is heart- warming and appreciated that the response to this initiative was so positive. 

One of the discoveries during the lockdown is the fact that this period was not so boring and eventless, as one might think. Being in touch, chatting with colleagues, preparing the services, keeping the prayer life going…all these do take a huge part of the time during the day. There was also the Zoom evening of Abrahamic interfaith prayers organised by Jews, Christian and Muslims for all affected with this virus. The prayers and supplication of peoples of all three faith were same and united. 

As much as possible, it is a real blessing to keep our activities as regular as usual, but I also personally have enough time to re-evaluate what are the priorities in my life and in my ministry. 

Finally, as we are approaching the end of these four weeks, a new uncertainty sets in. What will time after bring? In which way are we going to live? What can be done and what can’t? How long it will last? Finally, with economic consequences on life for many people across our society, many look into future that is filled with fear and uncertainty. It is my prayer and wish that Christ Risen who is among us, will give us all strength. Humanity has a great ability to work together and do well. Hope coming from our faith shows us that, in the midst of our fragility, there is a power of God that leads us through those uncertainties. It is my prayer, that we will all rediscover our responsibility for one another, solidarity, and interconnectedness. No individual, no bubble, no place, no country can go through this by themselves. Together, with God’s presence in our midst, we can do it. 

I wish you all the best in your work and ministry!

– Fr Ivica Gregurec, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland NZ


 

Anglican Church of Japan

Nippon Sei Ko Kai

The diocese of Kobe is in western Japan and includes the city of Hiroshima infamous for suffering the first ever atomic bombing. The diocese consists of around 30 churches and our Cathedral Church of St. Michael is located in the city of Kobe, at the eastern end of the diocese.

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, public worship at the cathedral was suspended from 8th March. And up to now, a total of 22 churches in the diocese have also suspended worship, one after another.

Currently the cathedral holds Eucharistic services daily at 7am with only clergy present, but that only goes as far as to include the sacrament of the Word and intercessions. There is no sharing of the bread and wine.

The last time I partook of Holy Communion was on 22nd March, while attending a service in a neighbouring diocese (restrictions in Japan currently vary from diocese to diocese).

Now, I graduated from theological seminary 32 years ago, and in all that time I have never experienced three weeks without receiving communion!  

Last year I celebrated Easter and the resurrection of Jesus together with about 300 people at our cathedral; but the same day this year found me worshipping with just four other clergy and four laity; and without hymns, bread or wine.

And the worst thing is that no one knows how long this situation will last. Nobody knows if it will be a month, six months, or a year. 

Seeing the numbers of infected people increase every day on television, it seems all we can do is worry about what will happen in the future, while we pray for a quick solution.

In all that, words from this year’s Easter Gospel were a great comfort. In Matthew chapter 28, Jesus said, “Don't be afraid.” 

The resurrected Lord told me, “If you’re anxious about the future or fear of infection, don’t be afraid.”

And the words, "The sky and the earth won't last forever, but my words will" came to mind.

Even though we cannot receive the sacrament, we have the words of the Bible – the words of Jesus – as a great comfort in our lives. 

We don't know how long this situation will last, but we do dearly look forward to worshipping together once again. Please pray for Japan and for the Anglican Church in Japan.

– The Rt Rev Augustine Naoaki Kobayashi, Bishop of Kobe, Nippon Sei Ko Kai


 

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