BUFFALO, NY — Easter is about two weeks away, but it will look a little different for those heading to churches for worship.
We explored two very different churches to find out what to expect for Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo and Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna have been streaming services throughout the pandemic.
Both have also been opened for services, but there are limits.
The Baptist and Catholic faiths celebrate differently, but each is now seeing a renewed hope as the Lenten season heads toward Easter week
“To look at this year and to see people wanting to come to church now,” reflect Darius Pridgen, pastor, True Bethel.
“And there's a joy — there's a great joy in people coming together,” remarked Msgr. David LiPuma, pastor, OLV.
Both churches are dealing with a cut in capacity.
True Bethel collapsed rows only allowing 300 worshipers from the normally 700 and you must pre-register.
Seating at OLV is every other row and allows for about 400 to be seated safely.
At both churches you are required to wear a face mask and social distance six feet apart.
Both pastors LiPuma and Pridgen say Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday, will be different at their churches.
“Holy Thursday — we will not be doing the ‘washing of the feet’ this year because of COIVD,” LiPuma explained.
“We will only be celebrating Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday morning and that's just in an effort to continue to keep people safe,” Pridgen noted.
“What will be different here Palm Sunday?," Buckley asked.
“You know what will be different is just the amount of people that we can allow in,” Pridgen replied. “Big Sunday morning celebrations — usually not a seat left in the sanctuary this year there will be seats left.”
Pridgen said they have multiple areas within the building that allow church-goers to watch the service on television screens if there are unable to secure a reservation in the main sanctuary.
In the Catholic Church, parishioners will not be allowed to pick up palms from tables as in past years.
“The ushers and greeters will sanitize hands and hand palms to people,” explained LiPuma.
Good Friday in the Catholic Church is also marked with the Veneration of the Cross, where the cross is kissed by those attending services. But that will not happen in the pandemic.
“We will just have a general veneration — so there will be one showing of the cross that people can just venerate from their places in the pews,” said LiPuma.
At the start of Lent LiPuma says he really notice higher attendance on Ash Wednesday.
"We had pretty good size crowd and it makes all the different in the world when you have so many people together sharing their faith because it's about community,” LiPuma responded.
OLV parishioner Tammy Cumpsgon of Hamburg said she was “super excited” to be able to attend Mass even with the current protocols in place.
“You just adjust — and it's just a blessing to be able to come in,” Cumpsgon said.
Throughout the pandemic, church leaders say they have lost donations, but remain providers of other church services.
At OLV, a national shrine, it normally attracts thousands of visitors each year.
"Prior to COVID we’d get to 30,000 to 40,000 people a year — busloads would come from all over,” LiPuma noted.
But both pastors are thankful worshipers are able to come to share their faith even with the on-going pandemic.
“The real idea of the church is we are the faith community — coming together to support one another in prayer,” Lipuma reflected.
“It is almost reflective of what the Easter story is about of a new arising — kind of after a very grim period in biblical history. I feel Easter a lot more than what I have probably in my life,” declared Pridgen.
Here is what is different this Holy Week & Easter season at True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo:
- Seating capacity at True Bethel cut by 1/3
- Must reserve a seat
- Palm Sunday services will be held
- No Easter week services will be held
- Easter Sunday services will be held
Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna
- Able to seat up to 400 safely
- Palms will be handed out on Palm Sunday
- Holy Thursday Masses will be held, but no 'washing of the feet'
- Good Friday services will be held, but church-goers will not be allowed to kiss the cross at 'Veneration of the Cross'
- Holy Saturday Masses will be held
- Easter Sunday Masses will be held