The 23rd March marked the one year anniversary of the beginning of Covid-19 and national lockdown in the UK. For most of us, this changed our lives in unprecedented ways. For places of worship, new regulations and guidelines were introduced which altered how many of us practiced our faith. With Easter right around the corner, we spoke to the Archdeacon of London for his reflections on celebrating one of the most important holidays in the Christian Church during Covid-19.
“For Christians Easter is the season of both death and resurrection. The fast of forty days during Lent is a time in which Christians attempt to look up to God by increasing the amount of worship and prayer in their lives; look out to their neighbours and serve them better with the love of God in Jesus Christ; look into themselves in reflection and repentance and seeking to live better. Lent is a time of fasting, giving good things up for a season in order that we may look beyond the gifts which God gives us to the One who gives.”
Of course, our collective effort to protect our communities and prevent the spread of Covid-19 means this year Easter cannot be celebrated like normal.
“Along with everyone else during the pandemic restrictions, Christians have been forced to give up things which they hold dear. In the Lenten fast giving up helps us not to take God’s gifts for granted; in the same way the various restrictions have made us realise how much we appreciate simple things which are now lost to us: human touch and companionship; lifting voices in song; pilgrimages; sharing meals and times together.”
Although we might not be able to spend time with those outside of our household, the government has encouraged the use of digital technology to live stream events in order to limit in-person gatherings and instead celebrate online with others. That said, communal worship can be attended in limited numbers and in accordance with government regulations provided you do not show any symptoms of Covid-19. This means adhering to social distancing, following the mitigations put in place such as booking systems and/or staggered arrivals, wearing face coverings at all times (unless you are exempt) and complying with the NHS Test and Trace service.
This also includes no congregational singing or chanting and avoiding the shared use of religious resources, such as Bibles and Hymn books. While worship has indeed been affected by these regulations, the Archdeacon reminds us that while “many of the things which we take for granted as part of our devotion have been removed from us for a time. This has served to help us think more clearly about what is and is not absolutely necessary”.
The Archdeacon also discussed with us the importance of the Triduum and the affect the pandemic has had on how we might ordinarily honour this time:
“Lent culminates with the great Three Days when we live out the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. First Maundy Thursday, when we remember the sharing of the Last Supper and the gift of the meal of bread and wine in which we believe Christ comes to us day by day. Then Good Friday, on which we commemorate His death on the cross for our Salvation. Then, after Holy Saturday in which there is no worship, because on that day He lay in the tomb, comes Easter Day, the day of resurrection.
There are some things which this year we will not be able to do. On Maundy Thursday evening the priest washes the feet of the congregation as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, teaching them to be servants of one another. On Good Friday we come forward to kiss the foot of crucifix, the sign of our love for the one who died for us. And of course on Easter day we would normally be singing at the tops of our voices with joy at the resurrection. None of this can happen this year.”
Although Easter this year looks a little different to what we might be used to, we must remember that in complying with government guidelines we are protecting our friends, family and loved ones. Instead, we can look forward to years of celebration ahead.
“For Christians the Easter hope is the perspective from which we look back at the difficult and dark days which precede it. Easter hope is also the perspective from which we look at the ups and downs of the world. From the perspective of the resurrection it is possible to hope even in the midst of a global pandemic. What has been stripped away from us simply serves to emphasise what is eternal and really important: that God’s love conquers all things and that the resurrection gives life and hope to everyone. Of course we want to go back to our normal ways, but just like the annual Lenten fast, when it is over we will have learned all the more to appreciate ‘normal’ gifts, and all the more in them to love and serve the God whom we believe leads us through death to life.”
And so, with this message of hope from the Archdeacon we can reflect on what we have learned during both lent and lockdown and look forward to the days to come when we ill be able to reunite with our faith community.
Written by Meghan Taylor, a Kickstart Project Officer working on various projects with Strengthening Faith Institutions and Faiths Forum for London. She predominately assists with maintaining the CRM database and social media scheduling. She holds an LLM in International Law from The University of Edinburgh and a BA (Hons) in International Relations from King’s College London.