Celebrating religious holidays with social distancing

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

April has three important religious festivals coming up. At least two of them are celebrated by people in Slave Lake. Passover is April 8th to 15th. Easter, depending on your church, started with Lent in February and goes to Good Friday on April 13th and Easter Sunday on the 15th. Both are based on the Jewish lunar calendar. Likewise, Muslims celebrate Ramadan each year in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This year it starts April 23rd.

The January to December calendar that we schedule the rest of our lives on is based on a solar calendar. This is why Easter and Ramadan fall at different times during the years.

All this preamble is to introduce the upcoming challenges of celebrating family and religious holidays in April, while social distancing. During COVID-19, people are encouraged to celebrate all religious festivals and everything else digitally with all but their immediate family, whom they live with.

For the last while, Slave Lake churches and the Slave Lake Mosque have been meeting digitally.

For example, St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church (SPEC) in the southeast and the Wesleyan Church in the northwest are meeting via Zoom.

Slave Lake Abundant Life church has uploaded its sermons onto YouTube and also has a Facebook thing going on, says Pastor Danny Brown.

Other churches in Slave Lake, Smith, and Kinuso who are practicing social distancing.

“In the time of Covid-19,” says SPEC pastor Blessing Shambare, “hope is the rainbow that keeps us optimistic that we will pass through the valleys of death, illness, infection, and isolation. Hope, which is lasting, comes from God our shepherd, healer and strong fortress. Psalm 23 and Psalm 91, become foundations of hope in these times of Covid-19.”

Slave Lake Mosque has temporary suspended all congregation prayers including Friday prayers, says Slave Lake Mosque Imam Mohamad Salman.
“Although Friday prayers are only permitted as a physical congregation, we will be reaching out using video conferencing technology to keep everyone engaged.”

“Ramadan starts around April 23,” he continues, “if the situation continues, which most likely it will, then Ramadan prayer congregations and dinners will be suspended,”

“Ramadan is the time where we charge our souls spiritually and get back on track. This Ramadan will be different. We will have to reach out to each other and to those in need knowing that we can’t be physically close to others so we can’t forget about them. Our Ramadan food bank will continue this year but our priority will be to protect ourselves, our families and those being helped.”

Salman says, “our community encourages everyone to stay socially engaged while taking all the precautions set by Alberta Health Services and utilize different communication methods like video and voice, go outside connect with nature and contemplate and reflect and hopefully come out of this as better human beings.”

A sense of how churches in Slave Lake plan to hold Easter services can be found from SPEC’s list of online services.

On April 5th at 10:30 a.m., SPEC is holding a Palm Sunday service on Zoom.
April 6th to 8th, there will be online Bible teachings for holy week at 7 p.m.
At 7 p.m. on April 7, the Maundy Thursday service, this normally includes foot washing. It emphasizes the Passover.

April 10th at 10:30 a.m. is the Good Friday service, focused on Jesus’ seven statements on the cross. Also at 10:30, the Easter Sunday service is April 12th.

This is just one of the examples of Easter services happening in Slave Lake. These as well as extended family get-togethers and meals will likely look different this year, but that doesn’t mean social connection cannot happen while social distancing.

Upcoming religious holidays are likely going to look different this year because of social distancing. While none of the three major religious festivals in April focus on the moon, all are based on traditional lunar calendars. Just a random bit of history, to add to the conversation of how people are going to maintain social distancing while celebrating Easter, Ramadan, and Passover.
Photo is from the March 9th full moon. The April full moon was on April 7th.

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