University of Redlands

Celebration and fellowship in the age of COVID-19

"In the Easter story, human pathos meets the divine ethos of love, hope, and care, and the world certainly is yearning for some good news," says Marcia McFee, Ph.D., the Ford Fellow Visiting Professor of Worship and Ritual Studies at the University of Redlands Graduate School of Theology. 

"Easter is a moment when the faith narrative of Christianity offers its most poignant bottom line for humanity—the sun always rises on another day. Hope for the renewal of life is what regular church attendees, once-or-twice-a-year attendees, or those who simply gather the extended family for dinner and chocolate bunnies look for. Brighter colors, budding flowers, triumphant rushes of energy from loud brass instruments, new clothes, encouraging sermons, and even the anticipation of finding Easter eggs in the back yard—all elements full of anticipated better things.

Marcia McFee, Ph.D."And so, yes, we can still celebrate Easter, or for some, Passover, and for others, Ramadan. In fact, it is perhaps essential to do so, in this moment, this year. 

"Divine goodness is already popping up all over. Communities are hanging homemade hearts and rainbows in windows, coming out of their houses at prescribed times to cheer and sing, delivering groceries to elderly and vulnerable neighbors, drawing encouraging messages with chalk on sidewalk corners. Celebration and fellowship are already happening as families across the miles gaze with more affection at each other on videoconference dinners that take on deeper appreciation and meaning. Hope is happening as more people are alive today and will be tomorrow because of the common effort to stay inside for the sake of the wider community. These “rituals” show that we are connected by our sheer will to live, and our love of life."
Some things to do to make rituals special at home and extend fellowship:
1. Watch a service online. Add some flowers from outside if you can to a “worship space” where you will watch in your home. Have a candle ready to light at the beginning of the worship–a traditional sign of the presence of hope in the midst of despair. And dress up as you would if attending a service in person. Afterward, take a walk (call it a parade) in your holiday finest, waving to all people you encounter from afar. 
2. Keep dinner rituals as in other years and videoconference with those who are not with you. Take some time to intentionally check in with each other and share from the heart with a question such as “What have you seen that is full of life or hope?" 
3. Create something together such as crafts to hang in the windows, messages of encouragement with sidewalk chalk. Make the colors bright. Then top it off with a dance party in your front yard. Post your photos and videos of the day online, spreading further light and love. 
4. Go to to light a candle and write a prayer for those who are affected by COVID-19. 
Marcia McFee, Ph.D., is the Ford Fellow Visiting Professor of Worship and Ritual Studies at the University of Redlands Graduate School of Theology.