Cozy

Faith in Quarantine: What it Feels Like to Spend Holy Days in Quarantine

Going to class at Pitt during Holy Week and Passover has always brought big conversations to campus. Every year I have seen my friends try and navigate services, fasting periods and religious rights in the middle of finals weeks and exams. For myself, I have asked for absences to attend family gatherings and services. My friends have asked professors and been denied for earlier test dates, when they asked so that they could follow religious duties. Religion and college have always seemed to butt heads during my time at Pitt. But nothing like this year. I don’t think anything has been like this.

porch in city

Easter has always been a really big holiday in my house. Never as big as Christmas in terms of decoration, fanfare or time spent in our local church, but it’s one of the biggest holidays of our religion. It's the holiest week of the year, as it symbolizes the promise that we base our entire faith on. In past years, we go to church on Palm Sunday. We pray throughout the week. Good Friday we go to church, take communion and be with our community. Sunday morning (or Saturday night if we’re feeling funky) we go celebrate in our church again, eat dinner and spend the day with my extended family. We play games with my nieces, paint eggs and just be with each other. It's an incredibly special week for us. It's embedded in community.

But not this year.

This year was by far one of the strangest years. Instead of going to church, sitting with our friends and teaching our kids, we sat in our living room, watching services online. Instead of sitting in the auditorium, taking communion with our friends and loved ones, we took bread and grape juice together as a family. It was weird not being in my God’s house. Something just felt… off.

And I wasn’t the only one who experienced changes in the way I worshipped God. When I checked in on a friend of mine, who practices Orthodox Judaism, on how Passover was going for her, she told me that her Synagogue had closed for this Passover. In past years I have seen her and her family come together for this holiday, and the religious significance I have seen it play, breaks me in knowing that this year could not play out in the same way.

This season has been hard. A lot of us are missing the people and things that make the Holy Week what it always has been. Staying at home and not in our usual places of worship can be really hard for some of us to stay feeling connected to our community, and some of us are feeling it more than others. We’ve all seen the news reels talking about the pastors who continue to hold in person church services, only to get sick themselves. And the transition to a purely online religious service and meet ups can seem out of touch for many people. And yet… even in the darkness there has been something on the horizon. This change in the ordinary pace of life has also caused some of us to force ourselves into the slowness. The lack of the hustle between this house and the next has opened the door of solitude and quiet for many of us.  

computer hands writing in journal on table

When I’ve checked in on my friends and loved ones to see how they’re coping, my heart is warmed by the ways that they have been able to use this time. My friend Jacob is the son of a Lutheran Pastor, and in trying to serve his community, has been helping record sermons to be able to distribute to their congregation during the quarantine.  I have seen friends post about online Seders and small groups, using the technology around us to try and stay connected to our communities any way we can.

For myself, I have actually found myself becoming closer to my God. While in school I always found and excuse not to pray, an excuse not to stay still and meditate, an excuse to stay so fully of myself and my own stressors I couldn’t allow my heart to be taken up with things that would usually fill me with peace. In this time of quarantine, I have found that in this time of quiet, I have made the time to check in on my loved ones, to journal and pray in a way I didn’t give myself before.

Coronavirus

This isn’t an experience that many of us out there can have. There are healthcare workers, grocery store workers and food industry workers who are out there trying to keep this whole thing moving and surviving, trying to keep their families alive. These are the people risking their lives so that we can stay safe. This is why we need to stay inside. This is why we need to be making sure that we aren’t making this any worse than it needs to be. I know that this season is hard for us. I know not connecting to our communities and in the usual places of worship is something that none of us wanted to experience. But for those of who are blessed enough to be able to stay home, we can use this time. We can use this time given to us to connect with our faith in a new way. Keep practicing your faith.  Check in with your friends. Check in with your spirit. Do not let this physical separation cause a separation in your soul.  You are going to make it.