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Holy Week Services Go Online, Connecting in a Time of Separation

Published on Thursday, April 9, 2020 | 6:08 pm

For Christians, this is a Holy Week like no other in anybody’s lifetime, with coronavirus stay-at-home orders isolating worshippers who would normally gather at church services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

But if people are separated, they need not be disconnected … and the Holy Week theme of rebirth need not be lost.

Those were the messages from area clergy this week as they prepared to lead online services and craft sermons that will mark the most sacred days of the Christian calendar during an unusual and troubling time.

“This Holy Week will be different,’’ said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, who will lead a live-streamed National Prayer of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus beginning at 9 a.m. on Good Friday from Downtown L.A.’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels — during which he will ask for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s available at and

“Our churches may be closed, but Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains,’’ Gomez said in a statement. “Our Lord’s heart remains open to every man and woman. Even though we cannot worship together, each of us can seek Him in the tabernacles of our own hearts.”

Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus, while Easter celebrates the resurrection. All Pasadena-area churches will be conducting some sort of online services – for Holy Week, and beyond —  and it’s best to check a particular church’s website for times and details.

The Rev. Tera Klein of Pasadena’s Throop Unitarian Universalist Church said this week she was preparing to deliver a sermon titled “Promise of New Life” for her Easter Sunday service, which will be streamed live over Zoom (

“We will explore how this time of disruption and uncertainty can lead us into new understandings of ourselves, our neighbor and our planet, ultimately helping us all embrace purpose and meaning out of the new lives we are creating,’’ Klein told Pasadena Now.

“Yes, the disruption of daily life has called churches to rethink meaningful Easter services. And in some ways, it’s a real chance to embody the ‘disruption’ and despair felt by Jesus’ followers when they learned of his death.’’

Klein said Throop is also collaborating with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Clarita on Easter Sunday, for a joint Zoom/Facebook Live service.

Afterward, she said, there will be a version of Throop’s traditional post-service fellowship.

“We usually end our Throop Easter services with festive mimosas of all kinds, so this year we are asking people to bring their own favorite sparkling morning drink to the Zoom services,’’ she said.

The kids aren’t forgotten, either.

“For our children, who will be missing the in-person Easter-egg hunts and festivities, our children’s program coordinator sent surprise Easter boxes to all our families,’’ Klein said.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Sandra K. Olewine of Pasadena’s First United Methodist Church acknowledged that, for her congregation and many others, “This time of separation feels particularly difficult.’’

“Yet there are gifts to be gleaned in being present to the feelings of disruption, sorrow and fear that these days we are living in bring,’’ she told Pasadena Now.

“If we allow them to, they can help us be more aware of those who live with these realities all the time, becoming not only more empathetic but also more committed to addressing the status quo that helps keep people in places of despair and hopelessness.’’

Olewine had particular plans for each of the remaining days of Holy Week, which started last week, on Palm Sunday.

For Maundy Thursday, Olewine said, “We sent out a simple liturgy to be used at the table, asking folks to remember what love has done in their lives. Who have been the helpers that have surrounded them? Who are the people that they have not been aware of in the world that they ‘see’ now in this crisis?’’

Olewine’s plan for Good Friday includes a pre-taped service at 7 p.m. on YouTube (

“The story of the passion as told in John’s gospel is the focus,’’ she said. “It is a service of word and song, prayer and silence, light and dark. We invite people to just enter the story, letting it connect their hearts and lives.’’

Plans for Holy Saturday – traditionally, a day of silence – have been adapted to the new reality as well, Olewine said.

“That is not easy when everyone is stuck inside,’’ she said. “But I encouraged people to find some quiet moments to reflect again on what love is doing in their lives and how they are sharing that love with others, even in these trying times.’’

Sunday’s pre-taped Easter service at First United Methodist will be available on YouTube at 10 a.m. that day. (

According to Olewine, “We have been recording segments in people’s homes and other places all week. And then our AV folks put all the clips together.”

Olewine’s sermon will be a message “of life out of death,’’ she said.

“Maybe like no other time for many, we understand the confusion and disbelief of the women and men who followed Jesus,’’ she said. “How can life and possibility come from a place of death?

“So, my message is that even when what we see are choices that feel like we’re between a rock and a hard place, with no good choices before us, God is at work.

“It is OK to be confused, befuddled and even grieving in these days, uncertain where life can be found,’’ she added, “because we believe in a God who is able to turn dead-ends into new beginnings.’’

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