(CNN) — The coronavirus pandemic has challenged Christian churches to find socially distant ways to launch Holy Week on Palm Sunday.
Also known as Passion Sunday, the day recounts the biblical story of Jesus’ triumphant arrival in Jerusalem before his crucifixion, with palm leaves and clothing laid in his path. It comes on the last Sunday of Lent and first day of Holy Week.
Before the deadly pandemic’s social distancing guidelines altered life across America, Christians often celebrated with processions and the distribution of palm leaves.
So faith leaders throughout the country have come up with new ways to observe the holy day — from streaming video and audio to fronds dipped in bleach to volunteers in protective garb handing out sanitized palms to passing cars.
It won’t be an entirely palmless Sunday.
‘A branch from your yard or even some cloth’
First Christian Church in Tullahoma, Tennessee, will live stream its service on YouTube, according to its Facebook page. Palm branches will be available for pickup at the church entrance until Sunday morning.
“If you cannot pick up a palm branch, a branch from your yard or even some cloth will reflect the readings from Palm Sunday service,” the church said in one post.
“As a sign of encouragement to the community we invite you to place the palm branch or cloth on your mailbox Sunday morning.”
University of Notre Dame streams mass
The Palm Sunday mass will be streamed at 10 a.m. from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the FaithND website.
Palms blessed and stored for distribution at a later date
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, said in a statement that WPIX-TV will broadcast mass from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for Palm Sunday and Easter. The mass will also be streamed on YouTube.
“We had hoped to find a way to distribute the palm, and many good suggestions were offered, but, ultimately, our medical experts told us the threat of possibly spreading the virus seemed too great,” Dolan said. “Therefore, we have asked the pastors to bless, then store, the palm until such time as we are able to once again open our churches.”
Volunteers in protective garb hand out sanitized palms
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Middleton, New Jersey, will try something different.
“Since public Worship is prohibited WPC will be delivering palm crosses in sanitized packets to some of its elderly housebound members on Sunday,” the church said in a Facebook post. “The delivery folks will be wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) when dropping off the packets.”
The church will also have an hour-long, drive through “Palms & Psalms event” beginning at 11 a.m. after a virtual service. Church leaders and volunteers in protective garb will distribute “sanitized palms” to passing cars while supplies last.
‘Any green branch’ on a door or window ‘will do’
The Catholic Diocese of Camden in New Jersey is keeping it simple.
“On Palm Sunday, since we will be unable to receive our beloved palms at Mass, let us all put a branch on the door or window of our home to celebrate,” the diocese said in a Facebook post. “It doesn’t need to be a palm, any green branch will do.”
Downloadable palm fronds and real palms dipped in bleach
The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa offers ideas for observing Holy Week at home. The main service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral will available on diocese’s Facebook and YouTube pages and on its website.
The page includes a downloadable palm frond to color and hang in the window.
At Trinity Episcopal Church in Waterloo, Iowa, Rev. Stephanie Moncrieff will hold Sunday’s service in the parking lot, the official Episcopal News Service reported.
Her congregation will attend in their cars — windows rolled up — as the service is broadcast via teleconference.
Moncrieff, wearing a mask and gloves, will dip palms in a bleach solution before distributing them, the news service reported. The palms, folded into crosses, will be taped to windows of cars before a procession on wheels through town.
No drive-through palms in Miami
Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski said there would be no confessions or palms.
“It is not prudent for parishes to plan any activity that would encourage people to leave their homes,” Wenski wrote in a letter to Catholic parishes. “Therefore, parishes are not to offer ‘drive-through’ palms, confessions or holy Communion or any similar type of activity.”
Catholics in the diocese could place a palm frond on their door since “most yards in South Florida have some type of palm in them,” Wenski wrote.
Most parishes will be live streaming Holy Week and Easter services, the archdiocese said on its website Friday in a post titled, “Holy Week has not been canceled.”