For some Christians, Easter is dead; not so, says church leader

AS cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to rise locally and restrictions on movement intensify, preparations for Easter celebrations have seemingly been shelved.

With church doors locked, tomorrow’s traditional Palm Sunday celebrations, marked by palm leaves decorating church halls and re-enactments of the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey, will likely not happen, or will be limited.

Further, when the Jamaica Observer asked Christians about their individual preparations, many said it was the last thing on their minds.

“I truly don’t remember anything about it. Of all the celebrations, Easter holidays are the ones I enjoy most. Bun and cheese, fish, Palm Sunday preparations, seeing people baptised on Good Friday, and of course the celebrations at church on Easter Sunday. But, this corona thing lick it right out of mi head,” Joy Quest said.

“Corona tek over and push those events and tradition on the back seat. Tissue, bleach, alcohol and hand sanitiser is on the front seat now,” Leslie Shaw said.

“Christ will still be celebrated [but], I don’t know how great the bun and cheese part will go,” Joshua Reid said.

As for those in the secular world, their resolve is that Easter is cancelled.

“It’s currently under review,” Andrew Spencer said.

“Cancelled, no big hats and bright, blinding colours this year. I just hope they won’t be watching services in their living rooms in them,” Ramone McTavish said.

“It look like it nah keep. Normally the supermarkets and other places would a full up of bun and cheese from March. I don’t see that anywhere and most church people staying home, so I don’t know if they still believe Jesus died this month,” Diane Smith said.

But for Reverend Newton Dixon, president of the Jamaica Council of Churches, members of worship centres will remember that the Easter season is on.

“As far as I am aware, churches have remembered that we are in the Easter season. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and I will give you three examples of how that can be demonstrated. Coming up in the Easter season and in this time we would do well to focus on the hope in the Easter message. The second thing I would like to share is that in my church, which is the African Episcopal Church, our leaders have issued litanies that are contemporary contextual to the situation we are facing. It speaks particularly to our situation with the COVID-19 and our enduring traditions of Easter, and what Easter means,” Dixon said.

He added: “It’s not just Palm Sunday but first Sunday ­— a unique combination — so let us move to discuss the ways that we can have some sort of fellowship. We’ve been hearing some best practices that some pastors in the US have been practising. Palm Sunday is a statement for us especially now. It’s a statement of joy and hope in defiance of the powers that be that state otherwise. So, the Hosanna that we shout tomorrow is in total contradiction to the doom and gloom coming from both church circles and secular circles. Everybody is now calling down the end of the world but Palm Sunday, for us, is a reminder that hope and joy remain in the Church, in total defiance to the powers that be — religious and otherwise — that say that we are at the end.”

Moreover, with respect to first Sunday, Dixon suggested churches get the communion that is packaged in one parcel, do consecration, and ask members who drive to come by, pick up the communion, and participate in their own space.

For those who do not have the resources to do so, he said the leaders of their churches will have to make a decision on how to approach the situation and possibly observe a solemn moment.

Overall, he underscored that Easter is still on.

“Easter is still being recognised in church. The church is still holding fast to the Easter tradition. What we are working on is the practice that we will employ in a contextual way to continue to undergird and represent our faith that remains alive and enduring,” Dixon said.

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