CHARLESTON, W.Va. — During one of the holiest weeks of the year, faithful around the state are going to the services in a different way than normal.
In the span of a few weeks marks Passover, the Christian celebration of Easter and Holy Week and the Orthodox celebration of Easter. All of those services will be forced to be celebrated virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston (DWC) Bishop Mark Brennan appeared on a recent episode of MetroNews ‘Talkline’ and it’s a tough time for faith leaders and faith goers around the world.
“To not be able to gather together for these wonderful celebrations of our faith, which we see larger numbers than ever at this time of year, that’s real suffering,” he said. “We are in Lent so this is a penance we are all asked to bear and endure.”
To prevent large gatherings, in-person masses have been canceled around the state since mid-March.
DWC has been live-streaming masses on its website for the majority of Lent including Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Easter Sunday celebration will be streamed at 10:30 a.m. on the site.
Brennan said many priests in the diocese have used social media, phone trees, digital bulletins, and zoom videos to get the word of the Lord across.
“It reminds me of a saying of St. Paul in one of his Corinthians letters that we walk by faith and not by sight. We can’t, in this case, see one another but we trust that the unity we have in faith still is there regardless of the fact that we can’t be together physically,” he said.
Bishop Mark Brennan of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston speaks with @HoppyKercheval about the upcoming Easter Week and COVID-19’s effect on the Lenten season. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/5nTtwwM73i
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) April 4, 2020
Dr. Clay Marsh, the West Virginia coronavirus czar and Dr. Cathy Slemp, state health officer both advocated for social distancing and small groups during Holy Week and beyond.
“Certainly we want people to celebrate in a way that is meaningful to you and to worship. That’s such an important element for all of us for our hope and our futures. I and we implore you to continue to do the things you are doing now,” Marsh said during Thursday’s COVID-19 press briefing.
Slemp said it’s a tough situation but one that was must be taken with precautions with traditional in-person worship, fellowship or gathering activities.
“Places are doing all kinds of things such as phone base, online delivery of services and meetings, to drive-in worship using low-frequency radio communications. There are lots of ways to connect in alternative ways,” she said.
As of Thursday afternoon, the state DHHR reported 523 positive COVID-19 cases in West Virginia.