ATLANTA - For the first time, religious congregations will not be able to gather and celebrate two of the biggest holidays of the year, Easter and Passover.
Most churches and synagogues will only host online worship services.
Holidays and times of crisis usually bring religious congregations closer together but pastors and rabbis around the country are navigating unchartered waters of how to comfort their members during the coronavirus pandemic while leading their congregation through the Easter and Passover season.
“We are still preparing for services except the services will be online,” said Pastor Jeff Jordan, Rivercliff Lutheran Church in Sandy Springs.
“There’s nothing that can replace that face to face contact,” said Rabbi Ryan Lambert, Tikvat David Messianic Synagogue.
For the first time in recent history, most congregations will be celebrating Easter and Passover from their own home.
Despite some congregation recently hosting “drive-in” services, Governor Kemp says that is no longer safe because some people were still getting out of their cars to socialize.
Governor Brian Kemp released a statement on Good Friday saying, “I greatly appreciate faith leaders across our state who have made the tough decision to stop the spread of COVID-19 by suspending in-person religious services. Their leadership is literally saving lives."
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For many religious leaders, this will be a first. It’s also the first time they’ve had to comfort the sick at a distance.
“We can’t go to the hospital, so we are trying to be with the families to provide that support,” said Pastor Jordan.
“I have a rabbi friend in New York who couldn’t even attend his own father’s funeral,” said Rabbi Lambert.
This holiday season may not be what many had hoped but the message this year, leaders say, is profound.
“We are forced to realize what church is really about,” said Pastor Jordan. “It’s not about a building. It’s about Jesus and what he did for us.”
“There’s a lot that can be compared to Passover,” said Rabbi Lambert. “There was a lot fear and uncertainty and the challenge for us is to trust God.”
Best prevention measures:
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
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