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Dayhoff: Celebrating Easter in the time of the coronavirus pandemic

A month has passed since Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared on March 12 that “Effective immediately, gatherings of more than 250 people, including social, community, spiritual, religious … gatherings, are prohibited at all locations and venues..”

Since then the faith community has not gathered for Sunday worship and, for the first time in memory, will not gather together to celebrate Easter, although most churches in the area seem to have virtual church services planned.

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Easter, even for the secular, has traditionally been a community celebration in Carroll County — both for those who are religious and for the other folks who are just pleased to get out the house to enjoy the warmer temperatures and the sunshine.

I was recently asked about Easter parades in Westminster. Local historian Joe Getty noted in an article he wrote a number of years ago for the Historical Society of Carroll County: “Easter Monday parades were held in Westminster in 1884, 1885, and 1887. After a short lapse, a large parade was held in 1892 … and the tradition continued into the 20th century.”

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One tradition that has remained, (except this year,) is the annual Westminster Easter Egg Hunt.

Six-year-olds collects eggs during the Westminster egg hunt at the Westminster City Playground on April 8, 2017.
Six-year-olds collects eggs during the Westminster egg hunt at the Westminster City Playground on April 8, 2017. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO/Carroll County Times)

Over 70 years ago, the Venture Club of Westminster sponsored the annual event on Easter Sunday. An article in the Democratic Advocate on March 26, 1948 also detailed a planned concert by the Westminster Municipal Band; an invocation by Father William T. McCrory, Assistant Pastor of St. John Catholic Church and that City Councilman J. Albert Mitten would be Master of Ceremonies.

The message of Easter is timeless. Easter represents the fulfillment of God's promises to mankind. Easter is the celebration of Christ's resurrection from the dead. As we know from the Gospels, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day following his crucifixion. His resurrection marks the triumph of good over evil, sin, and death. Kind of has a contemporary ring to it, doesn’t it?

The Gospels say Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day following his crucifixion. His resurrection marks the triumph of good over evil. The message of Easter is timeless. “Young Paschal Lamb – Resurrected Lamb of God (Jesus) drinking from the stream of Living Water.” From a May 24, 1998 Grace Lutheran Church Westminster Easter bulletin. Attributed to E. Tamson, The Heritage Art Co. No. 8250.
The Gospels say Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day following his crucifixion. His resurrection marks the triumph of good over evil. The message of Easter is timeless. “Young Paschal Lamb – Resurrected Lamb of God (Jesus) drinking from the stream of Living Water.” From a May 24, 1998 Grace Lutheran Church Westminster Easter bulletin. Attributed to E. Tamson, The Heritage Art Co. No. 8250. (Courtesy)

For those of you following along in your Bible at home, the story of Easter — the Resurrection of Christ — is told in Matthew 28: 8-20, Mark 16: 9-20, Luke 24:13-49, John 20: 11-21 and Acts 1: 1-11. However the best version is 1 Corinthians 15: 3-9, because it was written by Paul of Tarsus only a few years after it all happened in 33 AD.

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So what does Easter in 2020 look like in the ‘time of pandemic?’

According to a recent article on CNBC, James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, advised the faithful, “One of the ways of being kind, in addition to doing good things for your neighbors, is to practice social distancing and stay home and not give other people the disease.” Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.”

Martin, according to CNBC, “also gave advice for Americans who are struggling to cope as the coronavirus infects hundreds of thousands in the U.S. … and as unemployment hits … record highs.”

“If they’re religious, it’s looking for deeper meaning, and remembering that God is with you through small acts of love that people show you,” he said. “Martin cited the generosity of doctors, nurses, and health-care workers ‘putting their bodies on the line for people as evidence of ‘one way of God loving us.’”

Westminster Councilwoman Ann Gilbert recently wrote in “Community Voices” in the Carroll County Times, “What is occurring in all of our lives is unsettling, scary, and profoundly humbling. … Despite all the negative and scary news, I have seen ‘lights’ shining in many people. … We will have to keep working together and keep brainstorming on ways to connect and help others. … We will rely on faith and each other now more than ever. I know we will get through this, we will rise up and be a better community. We have to come up with a way our ’new normal’ will feel normal and we will do it together.”

A sense of optimism, brought about by folks rising to the challenges of an historic health emergency, was the theme of a recent Facebook post by Westminster Fire Department (philosopher) Lt. Guy Garheart, one of many first responders on the front lines of defending our community against COVID-19.

“The reports are that the truckers are getting supplies to the stores. People are stocking the shelves all night and letting old people shop first. …. Women and children are making homemade masks and handing out snacks to truckers. … We thought we couldn’t live without Baseball, NASCAR, NBA, or going to the beach, restaurants, or a bar. Instead, we’re trying to keep those businesses open by ordering take-out. And many are making a difference by [staying home,] a virtue thought to be lost…”

Many are sad that we will not gather as a community this Easter, however I think that we should rejoice in that we have come together as a community to face enormous challenges. In many ways, this is the best Easter ever.

May this Easter-Passover be a time for healing from the coronavirus plague, and the revelation of the Passover Lamb in Jerusalem and in the nations.

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