Celebrating Easter through distancing and e-worshipping

Celebrating Easter through distancing and e-worshipping

Oneil Madden

Monday, April 13, 2020

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The advent of the now-infamous 2019 novel coronavirus, popularly referred to as COVID-19, has certainly come with its own jargon. I am of the opinion that and even after this pandemic is over — hopefully in the shortest possible time frame — the terms confinement, quarantine, and social distancing will forever be etched in our minds, albeit that a lot of Jamaicans are yet to understand what these words mean.

Most experiences that we have as a people touch two primary collective areas of our lives — society and language. Hence, sociolinguistics becomes an interesting element of language to study whenever there are new trends.

It for reasons like this that, even in the religious fraternity, we have started to see the coinage of terminologies such as spiritual distancing and e-worshipping. Certainly, the latter of these terms has existed for quite a few years, but most of us referred to it as online church/worship. However, COVID-19 has definitely enlarged the description of e-worship as several modalities and online platforms are now incorporated.

One of the biggest ironies that the church community is now facing is that of embracing the same technology that it once considered demonic and a distraction, especially for young people. Nonetheless, the overindulgence in and abuse of technology can have serious consequences on a believer's personal time with the Lord.

Like many other events that had to be adjusted up to now, Easter 2020 will also be an unforgettable experience for most Christian believers due to the nature of how it had to be celebrated. Understandably, one of the fundamental tenets on which Christianity thrives is that of the birth, crucifixion, death, and, of course, resurrection of Jesus Christ. Consequently, the memorial of Jesus is an event that is highly anticipated by the over 2.4 billion Christians worldwide, irrespective of their denominations.

While there are still many debates across denominations surrounding the timing and frequency in partaking of the Lord's Supper, because of the use of the adverb “oft/often” in scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 11:25-26 (see below), there seems to be unanimity that whenever Easter falls in April, it corresponds better to the biblical account of the fourteenth day of Nissan in Leviticus 23:5 (see below), for example.

 

1 Corinthians 11:25-26, New International Version (NIV):

25) After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood: This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

26 “For, as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

 

Leviticus 23:5 NIV

5)The Lord's Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.

 

However, a sacred event, which is a time for personal but equally collective and fraternal reflection, was affected by the coronavirus. Partaking of the Lord's body and blood was restricted to only 10 congregants per church service, and those who were present in a physical building had to distance themselves from each other, thus spiritual distancing. Additionally, the usual symbolic foot washing — observed on Holy (Maundy) Thursday — in some churches was also abandoned.

Despite the fact that the precautionary measures being taken by the Government are said to be aimed at helping to protect its citizens against COVID-19, there are many Christian believers who think some of these strategies are a direct persecution of the Church. Still, churches have pressed forward.

There were still many churches who had their services through e-worship. Apart from the traditional online platforms already used by certain churches to stream their services, several others found means to reach their parishioners to celebrate this joyous occasion. WhatsApp and Zoom are two of the more popular communication tools that have been used to connect believers both near and far in this time.

It is still uncertain when we will return to normality, but the Christian community is giving a spin to spiritual distancing. The argument being posited is that there is no distance in prayer. The physical church building may be closed, but the message is clear that the believers are the “temple of God”, according to 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19.

 

Oneil Madden is a PhD candidate in didactics and linguistics at the Université Clermont Auvergne, France. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or oneil.madden@uca.fr.


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