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Christians mark 'different kind' of Holy Week


April 9, 2020

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The Rev. Nicole Hanson-Lynn, pastor of Zion and Salem Lutheran churches in Ironwood gives a blessing during Sunday's service broadcast online. Many local churches are moving to online services as the coronavirus has people staying home just as Holy Week arrives.


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Ironwood - As many Christians find themselves under stay-at-home orders during this Holy Week, many area churches are scrambling to put together services, through previously uncharted mediums.

Pastor Nicole Hanson-Lynn of Zion and Salem Lutheran churches in Ironwood said this is "a different kind of Holy Week," and while things are different now, "we have a God who gives resurrection, hope in the midst of despair, and life out of death. God works things out of the tragedies. ... God does not abandon us in the midst of tragedy."

Father Frank Kordek, OFM, at St. Mary of the Seven Dolors Catholic Church in Hurley, said the parish is working to reach out and provide information to families about ways they can mark their faith at home.

"We are currently trying to put it together so I can broadcast my Easter service," he said. "This is something that is very new for me, but I'm more willing to try something and fail, than to do nothing and succeed. We'll find ways and make the best of it together."

"Holy Week is about the fact that Jesus has gone through the depth of sorrow for us and now whatever comes he promises to go through it with us," said Pastor Doug Norquist, of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ironwood. "That's important to me because these are hard times and that truth remains true even when we can't be together."

St. Paul is also offering worship online via Facebook, and for those who are unable to access that, the church is mailing packets with ideas on how to worship from home during Holy Week, scripture for each day, and a message from Norquist.

Hanson-Lynn said that she is choosing to minister from her home as a sign of solidarity with her parishioners. She has broadcast weekly services online and will do this several times this week, as well.

"It feels like it is more important for me to be in-home to show solidarity in terms I, too, am worshiping from my home office," Hanson-Lynn said.

While sheltering at home can be "depressing," said Hanson-Lynn. "It is an act of love that we are self quarantining for the love of another, that we are working together to protect those that are most vulnerable. This is an act of love and service, and we need to recognize it as such."

According to Hanson-Lynn, Maundy Thursday was one of the most challenging things to plan and deal with this year as there will not be a hands-on, face-to-face service. Normally, it is one of the most tactile worships out of the year, including communion and foot washing.

She said the online worships are a less physical and more intellectual, but yet still spiritual. Online, "it makes it more difficult to incorporate elements of our physical bodies into our worship."

Instead of foot washing, Hanson-Lynn said she will invite people to write thank you letters to those who are working to keep the public safe and serving our needs, such as, hospital workers, grocery store workers and first responders.

"The foot-washing is less about the actual washing of feet, then it is the introduction of the command to love one another," said Hanson-Lynn.

Kordek suggested that instead of washing each others feet to wash your own hands and work together as family, not to focus on what separates us, but on what unites us, and recognize the needs of others."

"It is a time to humble ourselves, to be servants of the servant. It is an opportunity for us to really focus on the blessings we have to be grateful for them. To do that as a family, as a community, is to strengthen those bonds that unites us," he said.

In preparation for Good Friday, where normally the altar would be stripped, Hanson-Lynn said she will be asking people to set aside religious items displayed in their home, so they are left with a stark, bare space.

Zion and Salem Lutheran will also offer an Easter vigil most of the day on Saturday before their regular 5 p.m. service that evening - all of it live-streamed over Facebook and the churches' websites.

Hanson-Lynn said that she is borrowing a lot from the services that have been held at Our Redeemer Oromo, an Ethiopian church in Minneapolis, which holds a long traditional Holy Saturday Easter vigil that involves the telling of several traditional Easter Bible stories, each followed by an hour of reflection.

Parishioners at Salem and Zion Lutheran Churches have volunteered to read one of eight Easter Bible stories in the setting of their choosing. Those have been recorded on video. Hanson-Lynn will be releasing them on Easter, one each hour and then asking people to meditate on the theme, beginning at 9 a.m.

"Back in the day, you would have heard these stories from grandma as you were kneeding flour, from a family member as you were going to bed, etc. So everyone who is on board recorded themselves doing it somewhere," said Hanson-Lynn.

It is also traditional that people are baptized at the Easter vigil, but there will be no baptisms this year. Hanson-Lynn is encouraging people to have a bowl of water nearby to remember their own baptism. Easter Sunday's service is planned for 9 a.m.

"Holy Week, is a very special time for prayer and reflection and that is still possible," said Kordek. "We are not alone, we are together. There will come a time where sacramentally we can do more. I think the Lord knows what is going on more then we may, knows what is going on in our heart of hearts."

According to Hanson-Lynn there are many acts of love that we can do.

"While we can't shake each others hand, we can call each other, we can text someone, and it seems really simple, but we can pray for each other," said Hanson-Lynn. "Phone calls are huge."

"Remember, we do know the end of the story. We know that Jesus rose from the dead and he asks us to rise; to open our hearts, our eyes, our ears to the needs of others and respond as we are able," Kordek said.

"This is a time when we are called to be more selfless, to do service that we don't really want to do, to do service that doesn't feel like service; to wash each others feet," Hanson-Lynn said.

"Christian love right now demands that we go above and beyond to try and keep the spread down. So I am trying to keep us protected right now, by keeping are distance," Norquist said. "We want to do everything we can to protect each other and so if at a time of a pandemic we can avoid the risk of exposing one another to germs we should do that."

"I am very proud of my colleagues with what I see them doing. We're all trying to stay connected (with our parish) and many of the usual ways we do things aren't advisable right now," Norquist said.


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