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Finding Faith in Alexandria
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Finding Faith in Alexandria

Vital religious observances go virtual.

Elijah’s Cup, candlesticks to be lit and matzah are part of the traditional Passover Seder dinner.

Elijah’s Cup, candlesticks to be lit and matzah are part of the traditional Passover Seder dinner. Photo by Janet Barnett/Gazette Packet

With stay-at-home orders in place across the state, some of the world’s most sacred celebrations of faith will move online. Jewish seder meals will be conducted via Zoom, Christian Holy Week services will be live streamed and many Muslims will break their daily Ramadan fasts alone.

“Wednesday night I will conduct both the smallest and largest seder of my life,” said Jack Moline, Agudus Achim Congregation Rabbi Emeritus. “Generally, we have 30 or so people at our table. Tomorrow it will be two – just my wife and myself. But we will have 100 people participating by Zoom.”

The Jewish observance of Passover takes place this year from April 8-16. Celebrating the escape of Jews from slavery in Egypt, rituals like the Passover seder, a special ceremony and meals with family and friends will go virtual.

“This is a time when people usually gather and enjoy each other’s company,” Moline said. “But that won’t happen this year. The holiday continues through the middle of next week so families will have to find ways to continue the observance at home.”

Agudus Achim Congregation has been conducting virtual Shabbat services and a rabbi and cantor are holding services each day over Zoom.

“We are serving our community with innovative care and creative compassion,” said Rabbi Steven Rein.

For Christians, Holy Week usually culminates with an Easter Sunday celebration that sees many churches overflowing with standing-room only crowds.

“Our churches may be closed, but Christ is not quarantined and his gospel is not in chains,” said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in his Holy Week message.

Easter this year falls on April 12 and many Alexandria churches, including St. Mary’s Basilica, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Alfred Street Baptist Church, are conducting live prayer services, Catholic Mass and bible studies online.

Some churches, like Washington Street United Methodist Church, conduct live services online and also post recordings on YouTube.

At the end of the month, Ramadan will take place from April 25-May 25. The Muslim holiday involves fasting from sunrise to sunset each day for 30 days. Breaking the fast usually involves communal meals with extended family and friends. With the current ban of gatherings of more than 10 people, many mosques will stream daily prayers and lectures online.

Despite the nationwide directive on social distancing that is forcing places of worship and communities to adjust, Moline said that this is still a time of hope.

“No doubt this is a difficult time for people,” Moline said. “But the message of liberation, the resurrection for Easter and Ramadan – all of those are signs of hope this time of year.”