Churches, synagogues and temples are empty on one of the most important holiday weekends of the year due to COVID-19.
“Social distancing is tricky in a church family. I think one of the biggest things we want to do is come and celebrate together and give each other hugs but we can’t do that,” said the lead pastor of Encounter Church, Adam Ziegenhagel.
His solution? Sermon over Skype.
Streaming all services online, Zeigenhagel is reaching his congregation from a distance from a studio he created in his own home.
“The biggest thing for me being a pastor of a church is we recognize the church was never about a building. The church is about the people,” explained Zeigenhagel.
It’s a move that has been encouraged by B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, in recent days as gatherings of more than 50 people are banned across the province.
“It’s the long weekend, it’s a weekend where there are many reflections and religious ceremonies that are happening over this weekend. I encourage you all to use that time to connect to people to connect to your family, your community, in virtual ways to keep that physical distance,” said Henry.
As a result, many religious services are now online.
This weekend is also a time for members of the Sikh faith to celebrate Vaisakhi, to commemorate the birth of the Khalsa and the creation of Sikhism.
The Khalsa Diwan Society Sikh Temple in Victoria usually celebrates the holiday with services and three days of religious readings. But this year, they will be live streaming their services.
President of the temple Hardip Sidhu Sahota says that although this is different, most members understand the need to maintain social distance.
“A lot of our members are elderly, and COVID-19 seems to affect those members, so everyone understands,” Sahota said.
Plans for Jewish Passover have also changed.
“Passover is the festival of freedom,” said Rabbi Harry Brechner, of Victoria’s Congregation Emanu-El. “It commemorates the leaving of slavery once upon a time in Hebrew Mitzrayim, what we think of as Egypt. We have a virtual Passover Seder happening.”
Ramadan also kicks off later in April for Muslims, and this holiday will also see changes.
Although these celebrations will be different than normal, it just means people are coming together in a virtual way.