Churches, synagogues get creative to keep connected amid coronavirus quarantine
Drive-thru communion, virtual Seder, delayed Easter celebrations among changes
DILLON — For some people across Summit County, creativity has helped them celebrate Passover and will help them celebrate Easter on Sunday.
For others, all or some of their celebration will wait until after the social-distancing measures to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus are a thing of the past.
For Pastor Jim Howard at the Dillon Community Church, the church community has learned and prepared in recent weeks how to celebrate Easter in a time of COVID-19 quarantine. For Palm Sunday, church staff set up a table and cones in the middle of their parking lot off La Bonte Street. Soon, gloved and masked staff took six feet worth of steps to each side of the table, carrying paper cups with unleavened bread to rolled-down car windows. It was the church’s creative way of following quarantine health protocol while providing the Christian tradition of receiving communion to more than 100 people.
This Sunday, for Easter, the church will do something a bit different considering the forecast snow storm set to strike Summit County. Instead of a “drive-thru,” communion, as Howard put it, the church will host a “flow-through” communion from 11:30 a.m. through 4 p.m. After registering online, church goers will be able to follow social-distancing protocol while entering at one door church staff will leave unlocked.
From there, they can choose to turn right to meditate in the church’s sanctuary, where pre-recorded music and verses will loop every half-hour. They can then walk up to the stage at right to receive “self-communion,” as Howard put it, before exiting through an emergency door to the parking lot. For those who don’t want to meditate, church goers can walk straight through the building and give themselves communion at the other end, before exiting through the church’s front doors.
Howard said the thought behind the method is to prevent people from coming in close contact with each other.
“We are telling them to keep their coats on,” Howard said, “none of the restrooms will be open — and they don’t have to touch anything. We are staying by with fluid cleaner and rags, in case they touch anything. And only 10 people will be allowed in at a time.”
For those who don’t want to come to the church on Sunday, Howard said the church will continue to employ its practices of Zoom video chats and uploading pre-recorded videos to the church’s YouTube page and website. On Sunday at 10 a.m., the church will post the Easter service video that was recorded Saturday morning by a small group of church staff. The service video, complete with music and Howard’s sermon, is separated into two parts: one with Howard wearing a mask, and one without. It’s a metaphorical way, Howard said, for the church to signify to its community that the second half of its Easter celebration will occur in person, together, when social-distancing measures have concluded.
“When we will celebrate as a community, life without our ‘masks,'” Howard said. “2 Corinthians 3 says, ‘when sometime turns to Christ, the veil is taken away.’ We said, ‘there will be a time when we can remove the masks, and that’s what Easter is all about.’”
The Dillon Community Church is not the only faith community in the county treating the Easter holiday this way. Over at Father Dyer United Methodist Church in Breckenridge, Rev. Calob Rundell joked on Saturday that the quarantine period has been a “learning curve” for his video editing skills.
A month ago, during the first Sunday the church tried to produce virtual video services, Rundell struggled through Internet connection problems, eventually having to cancel digital services. Since then, the church has pivoted to pre-recording its religious content and uploading it to their Vimeo channel, where church-goers can find the church’s message for Sunday. But, similar to Dillon Community Church, Father Dyer is effectively postponing its main Easter celebration until after social-distancing measures have ended
“Tomorrow’s message,” Rundell said, “is, yes, tomorrow is Easter. But that’s not really where we are in our story yet. When we can meet, we will. This is ‘extended Lent.’”
At Synagogue of the Summit, president Jackie Balyeat said community members have leaned on the Zoom video chat platform to celebrate Passover. The synagogue’s annual second-night-of-Passover community service led by Rabbi Ruthie Gelfarb took place on Zoom, as has the synagogue’s weekly meditation sessions and Torah studies. It’s the synagogue’s effort to maintain as much normalcy as possible in abnormal time.
Years from now, Balyeat said she will look back on this unprecedented Passover celebration during quarantine with fond memories of how she, her family and her synagogue have made something happen that, under normal circumstances wouldn’t have.
“The first night of the Seder,” Balyeat said, “we did a family Seder and we had four generations in five different time zones. Without the quarantine, I wouldn’t have thought to do it. What it has done, it’s caused you to think outside the box on ways to remain connected.”
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