Northeast Florida churches alter Holy Week celebrations due to COVID-19

In St. Augustine, parishioners drove through Plaza to come together for Palm Sunday

Many Holy Week celebrations are different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday in historic downtown St. Augustine, parishioners drove through the Plaza de la Constitucion to come together for Palm Sunday. Everyone stayed in their cars to practice social distancing. The gathering followed online services at Trinity Parish.

“Since this happened, viewership is three times our average attendance, so we’re having Easter attendance every single week,” explained Father Matt Marino, lead pastor at Trinity Parish.

Due to COVID-19, churches in Northeast Florida and across the world are altering traditional Holy Week celebrations. Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday without the public.

Trinity Parish is livestreaming church on Easter. There is also an Episcopal Diocese of Florida-wide Holy Week, allowing people to worship together virtually every day.

Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home executive order, people can still attend church services because they are considered essential activities, but many churches, including Grace Luthern Church and School, are choosing to instead stream online to protect worshipers against the coronavirus.

“The church is about gathering, and right now, the church can’t gather,” said Grace Lutheran Church Senior Pastor Jeffrey Skopak. “We’re scattered, but the scattered church still finds ways to come together,”

Skopak said the church will stream Easter service online. The church is also offering daily noon devotions during the week.

In Nassau County, Callahan First Baptist is bringing people together on Easter Sunday for a drive-thru service at the Northeast Florida Fairgrounds. The service will be broadcast on the radio and livestreamed.

“There’s some level of comfort you get, some level of normalcy when you go, ‘Hey, it’s Sunday morning. It’s 10:15 and I can’t be there, but I can certainly bring up the stream and see the guy that brings me hope and comfort each week,’” said Callahan First Baptist Worship Pastor Michael Ricks.

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