The Second Time Around: Preparing for Passover & Easter
As with other milestones, we will mark this spring, it is hard to believe that we are rapidly approaching our second year celebrating Passover and Easter in the midst of the COVD-19 pandemic. It was disorienting, to say the least, trying to figure out how to observe these sacred occasions meaningfully last year when Zoom—our pandemic lifeline—was still a novelty for many people. Yet, here we are—one year later. At this point, we know how this all works. Zoom. Video recordings. Mute. Unmute. “Wait I can’t hear you. You forgot to unmute yourself.” We have grown more accustomed to this previously unimaginable way of expressing ourselves spiritually. Still, it feels as if we remain “strangers in a strange land,” to invoke the language of the Passover drama.
This Friday morning, Hebrew College, Boston University School of Theology, and Boston College School of Theology and Ministry will, for the fourth year, hold our annual interreligious gathering “Preparing Our Hearts for Passover & Easter.” It is designed as an opportunity for graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members to explore the similarities and differences of these sacred springtime celebrations. In the “Before Times,” this event was held at a synagogue located between the three schools. Last year, we were forced to shift to Zoom, working furiously to translate something of the richness of our previous in-person gatherings into a compelling online event. We were relieved and energized to hear that many people in our communities found the experience deeply meaningful. Given the uncertainty and anxiety of the still new and unfolding health crisis, the program served to help us—including many folks preparing to lead Passover seders and Easter worship services—sift through a range of personal and professional questions about the meaning of liberation, loss, resurrection, and community in a time of crisis.
This year, preparations have unfolded more smoothly. Online registrations? No problem. Breakout rooms? Those old things? Check! By now, we all know how to do this. The orienting question “the second time around” is how to observe these holy days in this liminal moment between lockdown and a return to “normality” (to use a Faucian term). How do we thoughtfully give expression to our grief, outrage, and fear and to our gratitude, love, and hope? Can we hold the realities of widespread illness and systemic racism in one hand and unprecedented scientific breakthroughs and the resilience of our democracy in the other? And can we, as religious leaders, help others explore these varied phenomena and the accompanying mixed emotions?
In crafting this year’s program, we are attempting to create a sacred space in which our communities can lean into the tension and discomfort of the moment, using the modalities of prayer, music, visual art, and intentional discussion to explore this unusual range of emotions (which will undoubtedly run high for many people during the upcoming holidays). Among the special features of the morning will be a preview of a photographic exhibit (to be unveiled next month) curated by Brenda Bancel entitled “Faith in Isolation Expressed.” Ms. Bancel has assembled an expansive collection of photographs capturing the many ways people in Boston and throughout the world have engaged in ritual practice over the last twelve months. As we move through the morning, we will use the following questions as touchstones:
- What is one practice that has helped ground you this past year?
- How might we integrate the realities of this moment into our holiday observances?
- Where or with whom have you found community in the midst of this prolonged period of social distancing and isolation?
- What lessons about ritual practice might we carry with us into the post-COVID era?
- How has the pandemic impacted your understanding of community—virtual and in-person?
While we are certainly not out of the woods of this global public health crisis yet, there does seem to be the reason for hope. In coming together across our schools with people from different faith traditions, we seek to better understand all that has unfolded in our world over the past year, and how to contribute to the renewal of life at the heart of our respective spring holy days.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.