GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Diocese of Grand Rapids is getting ready for one of the holiest weeks in the Christian faith.
Palm Sunday is next weekend, followed by Good Friday and then Easter.
For the first time during the pandemic, those holidays will be celebrated in person.
WORSHIPPING IN 2020
COVID shut down basically everything in early 2020 including in-person church services. Pastors and priests were forced to go virtual.
“They’re sending me prayer requests, stories of their lives, things that they’re going through, the struggles that they’re going through,” said Father Mark Peacock in 2020. “So it’s through all of that I realize there’s a real special connectedness that we all share that will never go away.”
Father Mark at Holy Spirit Parish celebrated mass in a unique way last year by asking parishioners to send in pictures of themselves. He put the photos on chairs so he wouldn’t be alone.
“We come together to celebrate the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection,” said Annalise Laumeyer, director of communications for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.
It oversees 80 parishes and 31 schools in 11 counties in West Michigan.
Priests are required to celebrate mass on Sundays, but many of them do so daily.
“Every Sunday mass was televised from the Cathedral of St. Andrew,” said Laumeyer, “but at the local parishes, many of the local pastors also live-streamed daily masses or weekend masses so that parishioners could feel connected to their specific home parish.”
The diocese suspended in-person services last year from the middle of March until the last week in May.
Meaning this will be the first Holy Week since the pandemic started where parishioners can worship inside the church.
“We have the data to back up the claim that we’re taking all the right measures and that public mass is safe,” said Laumeyer.
Anyone over the age of two – without medical exemptions – is required to wear a mask. They’re also maintaining social distancing between households and increasing sanitization when people leave, like wiping down seats and pews.
“And so, this year we’re excited to welcome individuals back. We are excited that this may be their first time back in a while,” said Laumeyer. “We are taking all of the appropriate COVID-19 mitigation strategies to ensure that our churches' masses remain safe and open.”
And for those who give up something during Lent, this is almost like a year-long sacrifice. The resurrection giving those in the church hope and making Easter even more special this year.
“There is just something about the hope of the resurrection,” said Laumeyer. “I think it feels that much more real to us as we look with hope to the future and look with hope to potentially emerging shortly from this pandemic.”
Since the diocese resumed public masses at the end of May there have been about 20 cases of COVID reported within 48 hours of a service. But Annalise tells FOX 17 there’s no reason to believe they contracted it at mass.
You can catch Good Friday’s service at 3 p.m. and 10 a.m. on Palm Sunday and Easter.