Coronavirus: Churches adapt to virus restrictions during holy week

Coronavirus

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla (WFLA) — The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way religious faiths observe the holy week.

Many Catholic churches in Tampa Bay are not able to offer confession or communion as the country practices social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19. Mass is now being held virtually.

Triduum this year will be no different for Sacred Heart Church in Tampa. The pews would normally be packed for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and the days leading up to Easter Sunday mass, however, the church is empty.

Father George Corrigan said it has been adjustment adapting the old church to go virtual. They had to get new equipment to broadcast services online and to help with the audio.

For Easter mass, the church will still be decorated with Easter lilies to represent spring, just as they would if parishioners were able to attend, to give them a sense of normalcy.

“Its everything we normally incorporate into worship and gives the people the sense yeah this is some sense of normal rhythm in a life that’s lost all rhythm together,” said Father Corrigan.

Meanwhile, at Hyde Park United Methodist Church, staff have created an entire production to bring the community together at a time when they’re forced to be apart.

“Easter is not cancelled. I know it may feel that way,” said Reverend Magrey DeVega as he sat in front of the camera.

Mat Hotho, the director of worship technology has been busy helping put together the special Easter Sunday service, which will be streamed online on Sunday.

“Our scripture reading is on Bayshore, and and our call to worship is going to happen on someone’s dock on the River. We wanted just these really cool ways to incorporate the city into our celebration of Easter,” said Hotho.

Reverand DeVega says it’s a time when the message of Easter couldn’t be more necessary. “The god we love and serve always offers light and hope even when we feel like we are at our worst and lowest times,” he said.

The pandemic is also changing the way Passover is observed. Dozens of people typically gather at Rabbi Josh Hearshen’s Tampa home for the holy day, but with social distancing, he prepared a zoom Seder instead.

“When it became clear that this was going to be happening, it was devastating. But you know, the reality is that every religion should be emphasizing the importance of life and the importance of safety and security and the importance of health,” said Rabbi Hearshen.

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