It is possibly the first time in modern history that Good Friday and Easter Sunday services will not have congregations attending church, including at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican, where an average of 80,000 people gather every year. In India, as the country is in a lockdown, priests and bishops across denominations, will relay the sessions live to the faithful from their respective churches.
Father Warner Dsouza, who helms St Jude Church, Malad East, under the Archdiocese of Bombay, says, “We have about 800 parishioners. This is going to be hard on everyone but it’s necessary to keep ourselves and everyone else safe. Online broadcasts can never be a substitute for one’s physical presence, but we are not without hope.”
The story of resurrection is integral to Christian faith. For nearly 28 million Christians across India, this year, there weren’t any hosannas raised from the pews on Palm Sunday (April 5) nor will there be processions which mark the Stations of the Cross that tell the story of Christ’s crucifixion, nor the collective proclamation of His resurrection on Easter. “We are often fixated on what is tangible and visible. But our belief is that the church constitutes present believers and those who have gone before us. So, it’s going to be interesting to see how God fulfils the presence of the church in these times,” says H.G. Dr Youhanon Mar Demetrios Metropolitan, Delhi Diocese, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.
Churches, across denominations, are using technology to stay connected with their faithful, through devotional addresses on social media, personalised phone calls and on many occasions, reaching out to those who are alone in the city. The Archdiocese of Bombay, which has nearly five lakh members in Mumbai alone will also not have Holy Communion on Easter, for the first time in its history. “The Cardinal will celebrate mass alone with only four or five assistants. But the church has now come home. We are encouraging families to share faith stories and participate in the online service,” says Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson.
Rev Timothy Shaw of Free Church (Church of North India), Sansad Marg, New Delhi, doesn’t discount that he will miss his parish members, especially on Easter morning when they would all gather after a sunrise service to have a breakfast of bun, butter and egg with coffee. “But Christian faith is not about a building, it’s about your heart. When your heart is in the right relationship with the Lord, you can celebrate anywhere.”
“Our faith doesn’t end with a Good Friday, it begins at resurrection. And I’m convinced the lockdown will result in a transformation within families and churches,” says Fr Barrett.
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