The loneliest Holy Week ever

Still, the crisis was bringing the community together. On the Web site’s bulletin board and church listserv, people were offering to help teach one another how to file for unemployment online, parents were sharing tips on how to keep kids engaged, and a musician was recording members’ voices to weave them into a single song. Rachel Sensenig, one of the church’s pastors, had recently delivered a meal to a family that was self-isolating to protect their premature baby. Sensenig was beginning to notice how strange it was to be living without physical connection to other people. When she arrived, the father, in a gesture of thanks, reached out and touched her hand through the glass, which was both horrifying and moving. “These are my people, and I haven’t even realized how I miss them,” she told me. She felt that the pandemic was reinvigorating people’s religious devotion and commitment to social justice. “We’re accessing some deeper spiritual hunger here, because we have to.”

Holy Week doesn’t end with Jesus’ crucifixion, on Good Friday; it culminates in Easter, which celebrates his resurrection. According to the Gospels, women, including Mary Magdalene, were the first to greet Jesus when he returned to life, so, this year, the church’s (virtual) service will begin with the voice of women singing. Sensenig hopes that, when the pandemic ends, and the world comes back to life, the current sense of solidarity will remain. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the whole of the world, but my hope is there will be a growing remnant of God seekers who are going to keep shining the light,” she said. Ben hoped that followers could find comfort, during the crisis, through the week’s teachings. “The question at the heart of Holy Week is ‘How can you look death in the face?’ ” he said. COVID-19 has made death more present than ever—there is no opportunity to ignore it. White believes that, when Jesus entered the gates of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, knowing that he would be killed and then resurrected, he gave Christians a road map for how to confront their mortality. White said, “He gives us that same promise, that we can look death in the face and keep walking.”

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