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Houses of worship plan virtual holiday celebrations

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With a ban on public gatherings amid the coronavirus epidemic, faith leaders in Valley Stream are looking for ways to celebrate the upcoming religious holidays of Ramadan, Easter and Passover as houses of worship shift to virtual services. 

Despite the limitations, many say they are forging ahead, as the spring and summer holidays are among the most significant within their respective calendars.

“I think Easter will help people during this time because we focus on how Jesus died and was a resurrected Christ,” said Rev. Kymberley Clemons-Jones from Valley Stream Presbytarian Church. “Christians are resurrected people. No matter what hardship we face, we too will rise.”  

On a typical Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, Presbytarian Church members would normally attend a special themed church service in which they receive palm leaves symbolic of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. On Easter Sunday itself, congregants would normally meet for a morning breakfast, followed by a church service and then more fellowship and food afterwards.

None of that, however, is possible now, but the church services will still be held virtually on the Sundays of April 5 and 12. 

“We won’t have the same celebration for the holy days, but we are trying to figure out a way to give virtual palms,” Clemons-Jones said. “God is speaking to us in different ways and innovation is vital.”

For Masjid Hamza in Valley Stream, Imam Kashif Aziz, said that the way in which the congregation celebrates Eid al-Fitr, the holiday celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan will depend on what the state guidelines are by the end of May.

According to the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan begins on April 23 this year and concludes on May 23. Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, according to Aziz, can serve as positive observances during times of crisis because he said it reminds participants of the purpose of life and service to each other. 

“Ramadan helps in times of crisis to keep you intact and motivated which is important during those times,” Aziz said. “Fasting is a spiritual process for sympathy for others and to gain self control, to reconnect with the Lord, boost spirituality and it helps develop hope that we will come out of situations.”

At the Grace United Methodist Church, Rev. Gertrude Nation said she will distributed copies of Palm Sunday sermos through email and will also send out the order of worship songs and scriptures for her congregants to read, albeit remotely. 

“I hope to encourage them to do worship at 10 a.m. and we will be reminded of Jesus’s life and entrance into Jerusalem,” she said. “We are encouraging people to read the Bible, meditate on scripture, pray, fast, journal and try something new on these holidays.”  

The Valley Stream Jewish Center will hold its Passover services via Zoom, according to In Rabbi Buchband. It’s a big departure from the typical traditions, in which Passover celebrants travel to spend time with large groups of friend and family. In light of the epidemic, however, Buchband said that it is more important right now to follow the top commandment of preserving life.

“When there’s an option between taking care of one’s health and going to service, I advise my congregants to take care of their health first,” he said. “This is not the final word. This is a developing story. We are adapting to this crisis. We will consider anything that can stop the spread.”