GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While Holy Week started the same way it always does with Palm Sunday, the religious community will have to celebrate it differently this year: in spirit instead of in person.
“We all still have the ability to pray together, to be together,” said Annalise Laumeyer, director of communications for the Diocese of Grand Rapids. “And I think more than ever, God is listening to us this Holy Week.”
No public Masses have been held since the middle of March after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer restricted gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19. Many churches turned to livestreaming to share their message – a digital landscape the Diocese of Grand Rapids has been a part of for years.
The diocese has been televising its Masses for about 60 years and livestreaming them for three years. Now they are seeing record number of people tuning into the service held at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in downtown Grand Rapids.
“Television-wise, we’ve seen a 300% increase in our viewership,” said Laumeyer.
Still, the majority of 80 churches under the Grand Rapids Diocese has had to furlough staff members, including the Cathedral of St. Andrew.
“Our parishes do depend on that offertory each week,” said Laumeyer. “That is how our parishes pay their staff members, pay their utilities. If you still have the means to give, I know that our pastors would be extremely grateful if you would keep up your weekly offertory because this is impacting them quite a bit financially.”
She recommends checking with your local parish for guidance.
The Diocese of Grand Rapids currently plans to restart public Masses on April 13, but Laumeyer says the diocese will follow all social distancing guidelines set by the government.
“We want them to stay home. We want them to stay safe,” she said. “And we’ll all be back together as soon as we can be.”
All of the church’s Holy Week liturgies will be livestreamed on the diocese’s website, grdiocese.org.