Keeping the faith: celebrating tradition during untraditional times
The COVID-19 outbreak did not just disrupt our everyday, mundane lives, but for some, our spiritual lives as well. Aside from a few outliers, religious councils around the world have followed the secular health guidelines: religious centres are closed, services are cancelled, and the faithful instructed to stay at home, to socially distance themselves, and to pray.
However, this month marks the holiest weeks for many traditions: Ridván for Baha’is; Easter for Christians; Rama Navami for Hindus; Mahavir Janma Kalyanak for Jains; Passover for Jews; Ramadan for Muslims; Vaisakhi for Sikhs; New Year for Theravada Buddhists; Beltane for Wiccans. These holy days celebrate perseverance over hardship, triumph over adversity, and life over death. For many, it is a time for reflection and of communal celebration of rebirth, new life, and freedom.
Even for those of us who are not religious, the coming weeks are traditionally a time to be with family and friends, to be with our loved ones, for feasting and celebrating. Let’s face it: how many of us find time to sit on the terrace to have a drink, revelling in the fact that winter is (should be) over, excited to feel the sun on our face?
Usually celebrated with a community and family
Most rituals of rebirth—whether they are religious in nature or not—are celebrated within the community, bringing together family and friends. This makes it particularly difficult to commemorate this sacred time.
Many religious communities are celebrating traditions untraditionally, with the value of preserving life especially highlighted. Most communities are taking the necessary steps to protect their congregations’ safety while catering to their spiritual needs.
Services from various faiths are being streamed through Facebook or Zoom. Some Catholic churches are offering drive-through confessions, and many Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches are porch-dropping holy water in water bottles and blessed palms. Rabbis are holding study sessions, offering advice on holding Seders virtually, and leading prayer services requiring a minyan through Zoom. Muslim sermons are being broadcast. Gurdwaras are postponing the nagar kirtans processions to a later date. Temples are live streaming programs. People are encouraged to celebrate with their families through social media apps.
Missing sacred space
However, that element of gathering with other worshippers to celebrate a holy time cannot be replicated virtually. Zoom and parking lot services help, but that fundamental aspect—sharing the experience of creating sacred space during a sacred time—is missing. Add the background noise of the outbreak, and many will admit that the days are feeling a little less than holy.
Most religious traditions encourage volunteering, donating the gift of time. If the local guidelines and your health permit, you can volunteer at a local organisation. Alternatively, donations are always welcomed. Reach out to a neighbour, especially if they are self-isolating. While you won’t be able to offer in-person company, just knowing that they aren’t alone, that someone cares, is meaningful.
Rebirth and renewal
The time of rebirth and renewal is also a time to better the lives of our fellow humans, to remind us that we are all in this together, and by working together, we can pull through stronger, kinder, and more considerate than ever before. Religious or not, I think we can all take steps to extend care to others, and to create a more compassionate community.
Submitted by: Ildikó Glaser-Hille, Interim Programming Coordinator