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For Many, Easter Sunday Marks a Return to In-person Worship

BOSTON (AP) — For many U.S. Christians, this weekend marked the first time since 2019 that they gathered in person on Easter Sunday, a welcome chance to celebrate one of the year’s holiest days side by side with fellow congregants.

Notable events included a 6 a.m. sunrise Mass outdoors near the waterfront in South Boston, and a joyous, hug-filled service at St. Peter Claver, a historically Black congregation in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Another mostly Black congregation, Watson Grove Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, had hoped for an outdoors service at a downtown park. But rain forced a last-minute change of plans, and about 700 mask-wearing worshippers met instead in the church’s sanctuary for what senior pastor John Faison said was by far their biggest indoor gathering during the pandemic.

“We hadn’t seen a crowd like this for two years,” Faison said. “Eyes were lighting up. People just felt good.”

The pandemic erupted in the country in March 2020, just ahead of Easter, forcing many churches to resort to online or televised worship. Many continued to hold virtual services last spring after a deadly winter wave of the coronavirus and as vaccination campaigns were still ramping up. But this year more churches opened their doors for Easter services with few COVID-19 restrictions, in line with broader societal trends.

Among them were Catholic parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, which since last June has once again required most churchgoers to attend Mass in person — though those with health risks may still watch remotely, and pastors have been asked to make space for social distancing in churches.


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MC Sullivan, chief health care ethicist for the archdiocese, said celebrating Mass communally is important to how Catholics profess their faith. Church attendance has been trending upward, and parishioners are excited to gather again to commemorate Christ’s resurrection.

“It has been quite wonderful to see how well-attended Mass is right now. … It seems to have brought a lot of people back to the idea of what’s important to them,” she said.

At St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, there was whooping, applause and exultant pounding on the wooden pews when the Rev. Joseph Gifford told more than 200 faithful that the church’s usual sign of the peace was back – no more pandemic-era nodding or mild handshakes.

“The place just explodes,” said longtime parishioner Lynette Graham. “When he said we could do it, people were all over the church,” hugging each other.

Another highlight of the service: the first performance by its Cameroonian choir – with its spirited drumming and West African melodies – since the pandemic hit.

“We’re back and He’s risen and it’s huge,” choir director Brendan Banteh said. “The ministry in our culture is very celebratory, being one in church – the choir, the priest, the people. Not being able to come to church had created a disconnect that we had never experienced before.”

Purpose Church, a non-denominational congregation in Pomona, 30 miles east of Los Angeles, had held its Easter services virtually or outdoors the past two years because of the pandemic.

On Sunday, nearly 4,000 congregants came in person to the church’s newly renovated sanctuary for three morning services, with many still watching virtually and others seated outside watching the proceedings on a 40-foot LED screen. This was also the first service in two years featuring the full 150-member choir, band and orchestra, said Tina Tong, worship producer for the 152-year-old church.

“It’s a sweet homecoming in so many ways,” she said. “We’re gathering in our new space, which is also special.”

A much smaller Southern California congregation – about 25 people – gathered on the beach in Pacific Palisades for a sunrise service conducted by Pastor Joe Ramirez, founder of Revive LA, an inclusive Lutheran congregation.

“We watched the sun come up, talked about the resurrection and shared the message that hope is alive,” he said.

Because of the pandemic, “Our congregation has gotten used to being outside because people are more comfortable, and they can bring their pets,” Ramirez added. “We had three dogs at this morning’s service.”

In Minnesota’s Twin Cities, there were differing approaches to COVID precautions as Easter arrived.


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Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, which became a community hub during protests over George Floyd’s killing in 2020, ended its mask requirement as of Palm Sunday and returned to shoulder-to-shoulder communion at the rail instead of in the pews.

Ingrid Rasmussen, the pastor, said Easter attendance was expected to be similar to pre-pandemic levels — but split between those in pews and those joining remotely.

Christ Church Lutheran, an architectural landmark also in Minneapolis, was taking a cautious approach to loosening COVID protocols — masks and social distancing measures remain in place.

“The gift of being in the same physical space for the first time in three years is so grounding and beautiful,” said Miriam Samuelson-Roberts, the pastor. “We do not take it for granted.”

Hundreds of people lit candles in the vast Cathedral of St. Paul after Catholic Archbishop Bernard Hebda blessed the fire and lit the Paschal Candle to open the Easter Vigil service late Saturday.

The century-old cathedral echoed with the singing of the congregation as candles flickered in the darkness. Well past 8 p.m., wide-eyed children fascinated by the little flames and the cantors far outnumbered people wearing masks – the archdiocese rescinded all COVID protocols on April 1, while allowing the faithful and individual parishes to retain precautions if they wished.

In New York City, Middle Collegiate Church gathered for its first in-person Easter service since 2019, only not in their historic Manhattan church, which was destroyed by fire two Decembers ago.

While they rebuild, they’re sharing space at East End Temple — at a time when the synagogue is observing its own holy days of Passover.

The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, Middle Collegiate’s senior minister, said attendance in the 190-person temple was being capped at 150. Those leading the service, plus choir singers and musicians, took rapid COVID tests.

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Dell’Orto reported from St. Paul, Minnesota, and Bharath from Orange County, California. Also contributing were Associated Press reporters Luis Andres Henao in Pennsylvania and David Crary in New York.

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Associated Press religion coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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New GR Pharmacy to Serve Spanish-speaking Patients

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — By the end of the year, Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood will have a new pharmacy.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria began construction Monday morning on the $1.5 million project. The new pharmacy will include both walk-up and drive-thru services.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria practice leader Kameron Selleck it will offer convenience in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a pharmacy close in proximity, making it challenging for patients to get their prescriptions in a timely manner.

“A lot of our patients do encounter a lot of social barriers in their lives,” Selleck said.

He added that a language barrier can make it difficult patients to get their prescriptions. He said nearly every employee at Clinica Santa Maria is bilingual in Spanish and the plan is for that trend to carry over to new pharmacy and pharmacy tech hires.

“I think this project was announced almost five years ago, so it’s here,” Selleck said. “I just really encourage the community to be as excited as we are.

The pharmacy is at 730 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW (formerly Grandville Avenue) at Martin Luther King Jr. Street (formerly Franklin Street) in Grand Rapids. It will be the seventh Trinity Health pharmacy in the Grand Rapids area, with the other locations being Cathedral Square, the Wege Building at Trinity Heath Saint Mary’s, Hudsonville, Rockford, Byron Center and Southeast Grand Rapids.

Original Post: woodtv.com

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Tulip Time Crowds Encouraging for Returning Festivals

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HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Tulip Time saw big crowds this year as it returned to a more regular schedule.

The event was cancelled in 2020 and scaled back last year because of the pandemic.

Hot temperatures caused damage to some of Holland’s tulips, Tulip Time organizers say.

The heat caused challenges for the 2022 festival. The Tulip Immersion Garden, a new attraction, had to close early because the hot temperatures caused too much damage to the flowers, Tulip Time Executive Director Gwen Auwerda said.

“They don’t like 80 degree, 90 degree weather. Tulips prefer it to be about 40 at night, 60 to 70, maybe 80 during the day,” Auwerda said.


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The organization is working on final numbers but saw attendance return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I do know that the carnival exceeded 2019 by 25 to 30%, so that was fabulous for them and it was packed everywhere in town,” Auwerda said.

Kevin Knight, the owner of Market Zero, said the festival definitely provided a boost as they worked to keep up with demand. 

“It’s a huge kick off to your summer season,” Knight said. “Our fridges were completely full and got completely empty and completely full and completely empty, so it was about everything we could handle.”

Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022. Inside Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022.

The return of crowds could be good sign for other events coming back this summer, like the Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids. Mark Azkoul, an organizer for the event that began in 1970, sees the success of Tulip Time as encouraging.


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“We’ve been out for two years so this is a big thing for us and for the city to get Festival back up and going,” Azkoul said.

Organizers created the Plein Air event for 2021, which combined outdoor art and music.

The 2022 event runs June 3 through June 5. After taking a break because of the pandemic the festival needs extra help.    

“A lot of people still don’t know yet festival is coming back, so we really want to get the word out. We need more volunteers,” Azkoul said.

People interested in volunteering can sign up on the Festival of the Arts website.

Source: woodtv.com

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Mom Does ‘small Part’ to Help Parents Who Need Formula

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HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Though there appears to an end of the baby formula shortage in sight, it’s still causing problems for parents, so a mother in Holland did what she could to help.

Abbott Nutrition has announced its entered into an agreement with the federal Food and Drug Administration to restart its Sturgis plant within two weeks. The closure of that plant has been a huge contributing factor to the shortage. The company expects its products to ship to stores eight weeks after production resumes.

But for now, many parents can’t find the formula they need. The low supply has some stores limiting the number of formulas customers can purchase, adding that they are in “extraordinary high” demand.

The baby formula shelves at a Meijer in Holland.

So Caitlin Dampier, a mother of two whose youngest is a 3-month-old girl, stepped up to help where she could.

“I really wish I could help out more, but this is just my small part,” Dampier said.

She got a box of Enfamil formulas that she’s not using because she’s breastfeeding.

“When you’re pregnant, you get free samples and so I thought I would just offer mine for free for mothers who need them,” Dampier said. “I kept it around in case I wasn’t able to breastfeed.”


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Dampier made a post on Facebook this week directed at parents who can’t find formula. The box she received included three cans of Enfamil formulas and two ready-made formulas.

Two mothers reached out to her, including Kourtney Hann, another Holland resident. She’s one of thousands of mothers across the country who have had to go to great lengths to find food for their baby.

“I have had to go to stores maybe 45 minutes away just to even try to get formula,” she said. “It’s very hard to find them where I’m at right now. I went to Walmart yesterday and all they had was Similac and my daughter has a really bad reaction to Similac.”

Hann was able to connect with Dampier and picked up a can of Enfamil. Dampier left the box on her front porch with the message, “Please take only the formula you chose and tear out some coupons for yourself. My prayers are with you during this difficult time.”

The box of Enfamil products Caitlin Dampier left at her door for mothers to pick up.

Hann said she was down to her last can of baby formula which lasts her about five days. Now that she has received another can from Dampier, she’ll be able to feed her 9-month-old for the next two weeks.

“Being a mom is hard enough as it is. You have so many other struggles and to be afraid to know if you’re going to be able to feed your baby or not is a struggle,” Dampier said. “You want to do everything for your kids so when you’re not able to it’s hard. It’s just the worst feeling in the world.”

Article: woodtv.com

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