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Christians Gather, at a Distance, for Religious Services


In this April 5, 2020 photo, Pastor John Hanson stands atop a truck as members of his congregation arrive for Sunday morning "drive-in worship" at Peace Lutheran Church in Baldwin, Wis. (AP Photo/Giovanna Dell'Orto)
Christians Gather, at a Distance, for Religious Services
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Most Christians around the world are observing Holy Week, a period of great importance to the religion. The faithful are finding new, safe ways to share in the event as many churches around the world are closed because of the new coronavirus.

Peace Lutheran Church serves a Christian community around Baldwin, Wisconsin. On a recent Sunday, its leader Pastor John Hanson spoke to his church members in an open area where people could listen from their cars.

“People really enjoyed seeing each other from their little bubbles…” Hanson said, meaning members’ cars.

The 60 year-old has led Peace Lutheran for 28 years. At the beginning of Holy Week, a day Christians call Palm Sunday, Hanson used electronics to broadcast his words. His followers listened to his message over their car radios. The congregation also sang songs together from a safe social distance.

In North Carolina, people in more than 200 cars gathered for a service led by Pastor Chris Griggs of Denver Baptist Church. Griggs said, “A lot of people had taken for granted what it means to get together for worship…But when it’s taken away, you realize, it’s a really important part of my faith.”

Worship in a time of social distancing

But not every religious act is possible under the coronavirus closures. Leonard Blair is an Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. He informed local Church officials that Catholics could not receive the sacrament of confession by telephone. The sacrament of confession is a follower’s declaration of personal wrongdoing for which they may receive forgiveness.

In Vatican City, Pope Francis observed Palm Sunday in an empty St. Peter’s Basilica. The coronavirus has hit hard in Italy. The country has reported more deaths from COVID-19 than any other nation.

For many in clergy service, carrying out important duties during Holy Week from a safe distance has been tricky.

FILE PHOTO: A priest wearing a protective mask gives a "drive-in confession" in front of a church following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Warsaw Poland, April 6, 2020. Adam Stepien/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS/File Photo ATTENTION EDITORS
FILE PHOTO: A priest wearing a protective mask gives a "drive-in confession" in front of a church following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Warsaw Poland, April 6, 2020. Adam Stepien/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS/File Photo ATTENTION EDITORS


In Warsaw, Poland, Catholic clergyman Mateusz Kielarski has started taking confessions from people in the parking lot of his church. He told Reuters news agency, “From the safety of their cars, they can take care of their soul while protecting their bodies from germs in this special time.”

Kielarski said that confession from a car can be private although it takes place outside in public. “There is enough distance,” he said.

Szymon, a 23-year-old Catholic from Warsaw, was happy to confess from his vehicle.

He said, “What’s important is the moment, not whether it takes place in a beautiful church, within nature or in a car.”

Holy Week ends Saturday. The next day is Easter, the day Christians believe Jesus, the human form of their God, returned to life from death.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Mario Ritter Jr. adapted Associated Press and Reuters reports for this VOA Learning English story. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

preach –v. to make a speech about religion in a church or other public place

congregation –n. people who regularly attend religious services

take for granted –phrasal verb to fail to appreciate that something is important to you

worship –n. to honor and show love and respect for God

sacraments –n. a Christian religious observance that is believed to be ordered by Jesus Christ

confession –n. the act of telling a cleric your sins to be forgiven

soul –n. the spiritual part of a person beyond their physical selves

discretely –adv. separately

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