Church leaders plan live and virtual programs for Easter season

An cross was placed at the doors of First Congregational Church in Westfield on Easter, 2020 for drive-by visitors. (REV. JULIE G. OLMSTED PHOTO)

GREATER WESTFIELD-As church leaders make final preparations for the Easter season, interim pastor Julie Olmsted of the First Congregational Church will be reopening for live, in person worship on April 4.

“The time is the biggest change,” noted Olmsted, adding, “We will be welcoming in the Easter season at 9 a.m.”

Olmsted added that all COVID-19 protocols will be followed, including wearing masks, social distancing, and having hand sanitizer available.

“Families sharing pews will be spaced six feet from other families,” said Olmsted. “Music will include hymns by our organist and a single soloist.”

For more details on church events, visit www.churchonthegreen.org or call the office at (413) 568-2833.

At the Episcopal Church of the Atonement, Rev. Nancy Webb Stroud noted the Stations of the Cross, prepared by the Hampden Deanery, is already streaming on YouTube.

“We are continuing our observance of Holy Week with a drive-in Palm Blessing on Saturday, March 27 at noon,” said Webb Stroud. “Folks can park in our parking lot and tune in to the brief service on FM 98.1. Palms will be distributed to folks in their cars, along with at-home activities for Holy Week and Easter.”

Webb Stroud added that the remainder of Holy Week and Easter services will be live streamed on YouTube and Facebook – Palm Sunday at 10 a.m., Maundy Thursday at 7 p.m., Good Friday at noon, Holy Saturday at 8 p.m., and Easter Day at 10 a.m.

The Rt. Rev. Douglas Fisher from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts will preach as part of the Holy Saturday program.

Webb Stroud noted there are also church opportunities for children and families on the Zoom platform – Palm Sunday at 9 a.m. and Good Friday at 10 a.m.

For area residents wishing to engage in church programming, send an email to [email protected] for the links.

“On Easter Day at 9 a.m. we are premiering an Easter Story video prepared by the families of Atonement on YouTube and Facebook,” said Webb Stroud. “All are welcome to join our virtual services.”

For members of Central Baptist Church, Holy Week is at the core of their beliefs, according to Rev. Kathleen O’Goley. 

“It begins with Palm Sunday, where we are expectant, Maundy Thursday we are thoughtful, Good Friday we are solemn, and Easter Sunday joyful,” said O’Goley. “It is an emotional journey following Jesus’ journey to the Cross and His resurrection.”

On Palm Sunday, March 28, O’Goley has planned a 10:30 a.m. worship and Sunday school will be observed at the same time.

“We are having a Good Friday service which is new for us,” said O’Goley, adding, “featuring music, readings and candlelight.”

The Good Friday service begins at 6 p.m.

On Easter Sunday, an Easter Communion Service is slated at 10:30 a.m.

“All are welcome to share in prayer and praise,” said O’Goley. “Please bring a fresh flower to place upon the cross.”

For more information, visit www.centralbaptistchurchwestfield.com or call (413) 568-0429.

Rev. Bruce Arbour of First United Methodist Church will be offering a 10 a.m. Easter service outside of the church’s front entrance.

“Because we are outside we can sing Easter hymns and masks are still required,” said Arbour, noting that the days leading up to Easter will feature virtual services.

“In the event of rain we will move the service indoors using a modified service,” he said, adding, “Our sanctuary will reopen unless otherwise advised by the state.”

At the Westfield Evangelical Free Church, Pastor David Young has planned a Good Friday service at 7 p.m. – in person and live-streamed (westfieldefc.com).

The service will “Focus on the Cross” and feature music by the men’s and women’s ensembles, Communion, and a message by Young.

On Easter Sunday, services are planned at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. – both in person and the 10:30 service will also be live streamed. Young’s message of hope is titled “The Grand Opening,” and the celebration will also feature music led by the church choir.

For more information of offerings, call the church office at (413) 562-1504.

Rev. William Wallis at St. Peter and St. Casimir Church also has several Holy Week masses planned, including on Palm Sunday at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., a Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper on April 1 at 7 p.m., and Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m. on Good Friday, as well as a service at 7 p.m. On April 3, a Blessing of the Food and Bread is slated at 2 p.m., and an Easter Vigil Mass is set for 8 p.m. On Easter Sunday, masses are planned at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.

For more information on the church offerings, call the office at (413) 568-5421.

At Holy Trinity Church, a Mass of the Lord’s Supper is planned on Holy Thursday at 7 p.m., with Adoration until 10 p.m. On Good Friday, the schedule includes Passion of the Lord at 3 p.m.; English Stations of the Cross at 6 p.m.; English Confessions at 6:30 p.m., and Polish Stations of the Cross at 7 p.m. On Holy Saturday, a Blessing of Food in the church will be observed every half-hour from 10 a.m. to noon, and a bilingual Vigil Mass will be observed at 8 p.m. On Easter Sunday, a Polish Mass is slated at 6:30 a.m., and English Masses are set for 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.

For more information on church plans, call (413) 568-1506 or visit holytrinitywestfield.com.

Fr. Dan Pacholec of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church said a Mass is slated at 7 p.m. on Holy Thursday, followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament “At the Window” – reminiscent of last year’s Holy Thursday observance.

“People loved the Eucharist in the window,” said Pacholec, adding, “It will be enthroned from 8 p.m. until midnight.”

On Good Friday, Stations of the Cross will be observed at 3 p.m. and Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion at 7 p.m.

“Saturday Blessing of Food is at 3 p.m. in the church,” said Pacholec. “The Easter Vigil begins at 8 p.m., and Easter Sunday Masses are at 7 a.m., two at 8:30 – in the church and hall, and 11 a.m.”

For more information, call (413) 562-3450.

Rev. John Salatino of St. Mary’s Church noted a traditional Holy Week is planned – “just modified for COVID.”

“We will follow the protocols of social distancing and masking,” said Salatino. “We ask that people sit only in pews that have bows on the end of them. All of our services will be live-streamed on the parish Facebook page and on YouTube – St. Mary’s Church of Westfield.”

Salatino added “it will be so good” to have people in the pews for Holy Week.

“Palms will be distributed during the Masses on Palm Sunday,” he said. “On Holy Thursday, we will have the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, but without the washing of the feet. After Mass, the Blessed Sacrament will be in repose in the tabernacle on the main altar. There will be no procession. The church will remain open until 10 p.m. if people would like to visit.”

On Good Friday, the church will not be able to re-enact the Via Cruces (the way of the Cross) in the streets.

“This has been a tradition began over 50 years ago by members of our Spanish speaking community,” said Salatino. “Instead we will be seated in the church, and accompany our Lord as He walks to Calvary, with prayers in Spanish and English.”

Salatino noted another tradition in the church is when the congregation comes forward to venerate a wooden cross with a touch, a kiss or bow.

“This year the congregation will remain seated in the pews and will collectively pray in silence before the cross,” he said. “Afterwards, Holy Communion that was consecrated on Holy Thursday will be received.”

A solemn Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday begins at 7:30 p.m. but without individual candles.

“Easter Sunday we will have joyful Easter Masses,” said Salatino.

For more information, call (413) 562-5477 or visit stmarysofwestfield.com.

In Southwick …

Pastor Jeff King at Christ Lutheran Church is planning five “beautiful” Easter Sunday services.

“Though starting a bit past sunrise, our 8:15 service will be a traditional outdoor Easter sunrise service, with favorite Easter hymns and readings,” said King. “We will also offer four Easter Festival Services with live music, striking visuals, and tremendous joy.”

King noted that attendees can choose between three services – 9:15, 10:15 or 11:15.

“As a special surprise for youngsters of all ages, the Easter Bunny will be visiting us all morning,” he said. “Plus, families can get their Easter portraits from our on-site photographer.”

As an “added treat,” King said, the on-campus coffeehouse – The Daily Grind – will be open to the public on Easter Sunday.

“There’s no need to RSVP in advance – all are welcome,” he said.

For more information, call (413) 569-5151 or visit clcsouthwick.org.

At Our Lady of the Lake Church, Fr. Matthew Guidi has several Holy Week Masses and Services slated – along with COVID-19 directives. The schedule includes:

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord: March 27, 4 p.m. Mass; March 28, 8 and 10 a.m. masses.

“Palms will be distributed prior to Mass by volunteers who are wearing gloves and hands are also disinfected with hand sanitizer,” said Guidi, adding, “No procession is allowed this year due to COVID.”

Guidi added that attendees should not shred or leave palms in the pews.

On Holy Thursday, an Evening Mass is slated at 7.

“Incense will be used at this Mass,” he said, adding, “No washing of feet is allowed this year due to COVID.”

Also on Holy Thursday, April 1, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will be in the Marian Hall until 10 p.m. with limited seating due to social distancing.

“Bishop Byrne has asked that the first hour of Adoration from 8-9 p.m. be made for the intention of an increase in holy vocations to the priesthood for the Diocese of Springfield,” said Guidi.

A Good Friday service is slated at 3 p.m., he added.

“We are not allowed to touch or kiss the Cross this year due to COVID,” said Guidi. “We will reverence the Cross in our pews with a solemn moment of silence.”

Guidi added there would not be Stations of the Cross as the focus should be on the reading of the Passion which is read at the Good Friday service.

Guidi noted that an 8 p.m. Mass is slated on Holy Saturday, April 3.

“There will be a small bonfire outside of the double doors of Marian Hall by the parking lot,” he said, adding, “Due to COVID, there will be no congregation procession or candles allowed at this Mass.”

All parishioners will be asked to enter the church and be seated. The Mass will begin at the outside fire and process in. Guidi will wear a wireless microphone so attendees can hear the prayers recited at the bonfire. Also, incense will be used at this Mass. As part of the evening mass, one person will also receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

On Easter Sunday, masses are planned at 8 and 10 a.m.

“We are not reserving seats for Easter masses as capacity limits have increased and we have never gone past full capacity in our church here in Southwick,” said Guidi.

For more information, call (413) 569-0161 or visit ollsouthwick.org.

Terry Putnam, moderator at the Southwick Congregational Church UCC, noted an in person worship service is planned at 10 a.m.  for Palm Sunday, featuring a “special reading of a story about three very important trees, scripture, and music from our quartet.” Also, a Maundy Thursday service on April 1 is slated at 6:30 p.m., featuring candlelight, communion, scripture readings, meditation, and music from the quartet. On Easter Sunday, a 10:30 a.m. service includes an Easter message, scripture, music from the quartet, and flowering of the cross.

For more information, call the office at (413) 569-6362 or visit southwickucc.org.

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