The last place Jeffrey Morris would normally be during Holy Week or on Easter Sunday is home. Yet there he was, taking part in a Holy Thursday Mass at Seattle’s St. James Cathedral — from his breakfast nook.
A devout Catholic, the 57-year-old Morris attends Immaculate Conception Church in north Everett. He is also a longtime altar server at the cathedral in Seattle, where he’s often at 5:30 p.m. Sunday Masses. Now, like so many of the faithful, he logs in to join worship services online and without fellow parishioners.
Isolation is the weapon in the war on COVID-19. This Easter and Passover season is no time for packed pews, crowds of kids hunting for eggs, or all the relatives gathered for holiday dinners or Seder feasts.
“Our families are huddled in their homes avoiding this pandemic that is plaguing the world at this time,” said Archbishop Paul Etienne, leader of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, during Thursday night’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Like services at many churches these days, it was streamed live on Facebook and Vimeo, a video platform.
For Morris, a chef and New Orleans native who moved here from Seattle a decade ago, Mass online has been an adjustment.
“It’s kind of a learning curve,” he said. “There are parts of the Mass when you kneel — and I’m kneeling in front of my computer. But I’m not kneeling in front of this table, I’m not kneeling in front of a computer. I’m kneeling in front of God.”
Solitude has helped him reflect on the meaning of the Mass. Normally, he gets in his car, arrives at a crowded church just before the service, and drives home after being with hundreds of people. Now, he tries to get ready a half-hour early. He lights votive candles, looks over the day’s readings, “and when it’s over I sit there a few minutes.”
While Morris watched Holy Thursday Mass, Rabbi Rachel Kort joined members of Everett’s Temple Beth Or for a virtual, interactive Seder on the second night of Passover.
Using Zoom, a video-conferencing app, the rabbi and her immediate family hosted the ceremonial dinner, according to the temple’s website, which provided resources, recipes and this advice: “What’s most important to remember this year is to enjoy Passover from the comfort of your home and do not stress the details.”
Mukilteo’s Ron Heiman said his family celebrated the first night of Passover Wednesday with an online Seder that brought together some 40 relatives and friends, “2-year-olds to people who’ll be 90.”
The feast traditionally includes a retelling of the Exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Four cups of wine, unleavened flatbread called matzah, and bitter greens are part of the festive meal.
Normally, “we read it together, sing favorite songs and have fantastic foods,” Heiman said. His wife Wendy isn’t Jewish, but Heiman said “it’s her favorite holiday.” And although this year wasn’t the same, “it ended up being meaningful,” he said. “I kept saying ‘We did the best we could.’”
Other faith groups are doing the best they can in this season of COVID-19.
Several weeks ago, Marysville’s Grove Church was hosting drive-in Sunday services. After Gov. Jay Inslee’s order that further limited gatherings, the church moved to online-only worship — but there’s something special for Easter. Grove Church will be on its Facebook page from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday streaming what it’s calling “Easter Jam 2020.” Families are invited to join others by participating online in games, a telling of the Easter story, and worship for all ages.
Community egg hunts won’t happen, but that trusty Easter Bunny is sure to visit the homes of local kids. For Everett’s Carol Wheeler, there are happy memories of the Northwest Neighborhood’s annual egg hunt. Her Girl Scout troop helped organize the hunt at Drew Nielsen Neighborhood Park for 15 years.
The neighborhood association provides money for Easter candy, Wheeler said. Girl Scouts stuff plastic eggs, dress up as the bunny, and help throughout the event, which now involves a different troop. Candy had already been purchased when it became clear the 2020 hunt wouldn’t happen.
This year’s candy was donated to a food bank, said Wheeler, whose daughters are now 28, 26 and 24. “Those memories — I loved seeing kids come out of their houses with baskets, and in a few minutes it was all done,” Wheeler said. “It was so fun to watch.”
The faithful pray for an end to the pandemic and better days to come.
St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Everett looks forward to returning to its renovated church. The first Mass in the church, where walls were bumped out during a massive remodel, was to have been Holy Thursday, said Rochelle Staley, parish secretary. Archbishop Etienne is scheduled to visit St. Mary Magdalen for a dedication Mass June 14, if gatherings are allowed by then.
Morris can’t wait to return to church.
“I miss the singing. I miss that participation,” said the Everett man, who admits he even misses pulling his wallet from his back pocket during the collection. A part of the Mass he loves is the sign of peace, when parishioners shake hands.
“When things return to normal, in the blink of an eye, everyone in that building will become one person,” Morris said. “We are face to face — or elbow to elbow maybe.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to celebrate
The Snohomish Health District posted a blog Thursday, “COVID-19 and Celebrating Events, Holidays and Milestones” at snohd.org/Blog.aspx?IID=27#item