CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Catholics would typically be worshiping together inside the church and gathering with family or friends, but this Easter weekend is set to look very different from what we are used to.
This will be a true test. It's really tempting to congregate together for Easter or Passover, but state health officials insist that staying isolated is necessary to save lives.
The church bells will ring on Easter Sunday, but the pews will be empty.
“It’s been strange not being in the church building on Sundays. And it will be even harder to not be in the pew on Easter Sunday. But it’s the right thing to do if we care about each other,” Governor Roy Cooper said at a press conference Thursday. He is urging people to continue practicing social distancing, especially this holiday weekend, a time many will feel tempted to break the rules.
Even if you've minimized contact with others and think your family or friends have done the same, Governor Cooper said it's still not safe to see them.
Many churches have adjusted and will stream services online, state officials recommending "seeing" family virtually too.
“Everyone from my 2-year-old nephew to my uncle in his 70s was on the screen. Miraculously everyone figured out the technology. We laughed, we ate, we all tried to talk at the same time. We felt connected despite our distance,” Dr. Mandy Cohen with the NC Department of Health and Human Services said of her Passover celebration.
It may feel lonely or strange but following these guidelines will be critical in the fight to flatten the curve.
“We know that when we make these sacrifices now, we put our state 1 day closer to ending this pandemic saving as many lives as possible,” says Cooper.
Keeping the faith and somewhat of a routine is crucial during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Especially in times of need, especially in times of distress or anxiety, or especially in times where we're facing adversity or challenge, it’s all the more important to celebrate devoutly and prayerfully,” Father Patrick Winslow with the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte said.
There are signs social distancing is working and churches are adjusting after having to close their doors.
At Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Charlotte, the bishop preaches in an empty room on Good Friday, marking the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, congregants streaming it online.
“Although we can't be together in person, we can be together in time. So temporally at the same moment through the medium or television or the internet we're able to commune in spirit,” said Father Winslow.
It will no doubt be different but church leaders say Catholics should look at the sacrifice in a positive light.
“I would encourage them to embrace the difficulties and hardship during this time as a result of these mitigation efforts as a manifestation, as a fruit of that charity and love that they're celebrating,” says Winslow.
For a full list of church services happening this weekend visit HERE.