Churches take different approaches for another pandemic Easter

It’s the biggest weekend of the Christian church calendar and for the second time during this pandemic, warnings are coming from provincial leaders not to make plans for the Holy Week of Easter.

“Everything’s on the table right now. So folks, be prepared, I’m asking you: don’t make plans for Easter,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford Tuesday. “I won’t hesitate to lock things down if we have to. I did it before and I’ll do it again. Nothing’s more important than our health.”

Places of worship were faced with similar circumstances in 2020, forced to pivot to virtual services with very little notice.

This year, church leaders at Ste. Anne Parish are planning to go ahead with in-person mass at 30 per cent capacity — which is allowed in the red-zone of Ontario’s re-opening framework.

The church is adding additional services to accommodate as many parishioners as possible.

“St. Anne Church here seats 600, under normal circumstances and so it’s a far cry from what we’re used to, but at the same time, everybody’s safely distanced and able to gather together,” said Father Patrick Beneteau.

Ste. Anne Parish in Tecumseh on March 30, 2021. (Rich Garton / CTV Windsor)

Given demand for in-person worship, the parish is using an online tool so church-goers can book a preferred slot.

“Good Friday filled up within six minutes of it going onto our websites there,” said Fr. Beneteau. “It was kind of like selling tickets to the Super Bowl this year, you just see the hunger and the thirst for people to gather at these important times.”

The same can’t be said at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in London, which will instead provide virtual services to its Anglican followers in lieu of in-person worship.

“You know we’ve lived with this for a year now and I suspect none of us believed that a year after, that we would spend our second Easter not in-person worship,” said the Very Rev. Paul Millward of the Diocese of Huron.

Rev. Millward cites the speed at which the community snapped back into the red-zone as reason for second-thought.

“It’s irresponsible for us to go ahead and try to open for Easter services given the state of the world and the community.”

Regardless of the approach or format of services, both pastors agree the message of Easter — the resurrection of Christ — can flourish.

“It’s been a long haul for everybody and it’s not been easy,” said Fr. Beneteau. “We’re really trying to give that new sense of hope to everybody in this new spring time and new Easter season.”

“The message of Easter is that there’s new life and we need to look forward to that time when we can engage more fully again,” said the Very Rev. Millward.