Palm Sunday gets its due in the age of COVID-19

Newton. Christ Episcopal Church continued its Palm Sunday procession, a favorite community tradition that this year was broadcast to worshippers. The YouTube filming was done at dawn to prevent attracting a crowd.

Newton /
| 08 Apr 2020 | 09:15

To the delight of You Tube watchers, the Palm Sunday march from the Newton Green up to Christ Episcopal Church was broadcast on Sunday morning.

"The church is closed to public worship," said parishioner Lisa Pachnos, videographer for the event. "This was a gathering of four people: the three of them from the same family and the forth for the purposes of shooting the video for You Tube. All of us maintained our proper social distance."

To ensure that no crowd would be attracted to the Green, the small group gathered at the crack of dawn on Saturday rather than on Palm Sunday itself.

Passers-by were confused, with reactions like, "Uh oh, it's Palm Sunday -- I should be in church!"

After a brief Liturgy of the Palms, Father Robert Griner and his sons Jesse and Elliott, serving as acolytes, processed from the Green to the church to hold the You Tube service.

Traditionally, a large group gathers on the Green to listen to the liturgy and collect the palms handed out, with the Newton police as escorts to the church. But in the time of COVID-19, the church found another way to keep the tradition going.

"It was so refreshing to watch the procession on You Tube and feel a lightness in my spirit amidst all of the stress about the coronavirus," said Kathy Hoyer, a local massage therapist who has temporarily closed her business because of the virus. She's also a member of the church and choir.

"I miss being among my church family each week, but our community is stronger than physical bonds and we are connecting in many virtual way," she said.

New Jersey Health commissioner issued a letter to religious leaders throughout the state, which reads, in part: "This month, the faithful of New Jersey's religious communities will be celebrating various holidays including Passover, Easter, Vaisahki and Ramadan. While under normal circumstances these would be times to congregate for religious services and family gatherings, we continue to urge the residents of New Jersey to abide by the ban on social gatherings of any size set forth in the Governor's Executive Order 107 that directs all residents to stay at home until further notice. In an effort to strengthen the existing social distancing measures in place, the order prohibits the gatherings of individuals, such as parties, celebrations, or other social events unless otherwise authorized by the Order. We understand that while this may be disappointing to many who look forward to spending time visiting with relatives and friends, it is imperative to limit human interaction in an effort to help slow the spread of the virus which causes COVID-19.We urge you to reach out to the members of your congregations and remind them that they should not be gathering for religious services or for meals until the ban is lifted. Remain at home with only those who live together in the household and celebrate together. Please notify your congregations of any live streamed or televised services that may be available and provide them with suggestions on how they can create meaningful celebrations at home without gathering with others.Thank you for your cooperation during this unprecedented public health event. The more everyone cooperates and follows the social distancing recommendations, the sooner we can all return to our regular daily activities.".
"I miss being among my church family each week, but our community is stronger than physical bonds and we are connecting in many virtual way." --Kathy Hoyer