Christian worshippers were invited to pick up their own palm leaves at Christ Church Cathedral on Friday in preparation for the coming Palm Sunday.
The palms were set out outside the cathedral entrance on Quadra Street along with instructions on how to fold them into a cross — a symbol of how places of worship are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Very Rev. Ansley Tucker, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, explained Palm Sunday is the first day of Easter Week and very much beloved by many parishioners.
In days prior, parish volunteers will come together to fold the leaves into crosses and many worshippers take them home after Palm Sunday as valued mementos of a sacred commemoration.
“It’s a beloved custom and it crosses many cultures,” said Tucker. “But there is just no way we can gather together given the current restraints and the absolute need for physical distancing.
“We can at least provide people with the tangible symbol of a palm cross that will remind them this was a Palm Sunday like no other,” she said. “I hope it stays that way.”
Palm Sunday commemorates the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and was met by adoring crowds who waved palms as they would for a triumphant king.
Gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned in B.C. due to the pandemic, and many faith communities have moved online.
Christ Church Cathedral, which was the last Anglican church open on Vancouver Island, closed its doors to the public on March 23, making video recordings of daily devotions and services available on its website.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said people who celebrate Easter, Passover, Ramadan and other religious holidays should plan now to safely participate virtually in their traditional ceremonies.
Henry said Thursday that many communities have already been considering how they can practise their faith during the COVID-19 crisis, and she will speak with faith leaders next week to share ideas.
— With a file from The Canadian Press