CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Easter week, 2020, most places of worship in West Virginia and across the nation sat empty: no in-person services due to the pandemic.
“Last year, we did not have. I mean we did celebrate, but I celebrated by myself in the Basilica, without the people gathered,” said Father Donald Higgs, The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.
This year in-person worship will return for many churches celebrating Easter week, and synagogues celebrating Passover. Religious leaders of all faiths are thinking about this weekend’s message to their congregations, with COVID-19 still here. If there’s a common message, they’re preaching hope.
“Today’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. And it may be Friday and it looks dismal and it looks bad, but we know that that hope is out there, and we cannot give into despair,” said Bishop Michie Klusmeyer, Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia.
“In broader strokes, the ideas of Passover are almost universal in it’s messages. A universal message of hope, the idea of liberation, the idea of taking care of the stranger,” said Rabbi Victor Urecki, B’nai Jacob Synagogue,
Next week, the month-long Islamic celebration of Ramadan begins, and with COVID there is a similar theme.
“Keep a positive attitude and know that even when things are difficult, relief does come and that’s something that’s promised,” said Imam Nasir Abdussalam, Islamic Association of West Virginia.
West Virginia clergy leaders meet and talk regularly, not so much to discuss their differences, but to share their common ground.
“For those attending worship services, these leaders have another common message. Come wearing a mask, prepare to keep socially distant, and safely exercise your freedom of religion,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.