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'Drive-by blessings' keep Palm Sunday spirit alive in Thunder Bay

St. Paul’s Anglican Church uses some unusual methods to maintain Holy Week tradition
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THUNDER BAY – It’s the most sacred week in the Christian calendar, and while physical distancing measures to combat COVID-19 have ruled out normal church services, one Thunder Bay church is finding creative ways to keep the spirit of Holy Week alive.

Deborah Kraft, an archdeacon and rector at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, spent much of the morning and afternoon on Palm Sunday providing “drive-by blessings” to churchgoers in the city’s south end. A lay pastor distributed palm crosses through car windows from a safe distance, using a jerry-rigged fishing rod.

Kraft said for many, being able to maintain a connection with their faith and church community is more important than ever. She felt an obligation to offer something to her community

“I had a great desire in my heart to connect with people on this holy weekend,” she explained. “I truly believe for many people, their faith community is an essential service. So we wanted to have a very safe way where they could be blessed by me, and receive a palm cross.”

Around 100 people showed up in their vehicles, on foot, and even by bicycle to receive the blessing Saturday, while a steady flow of congregants passed by Sunday as well.

It’s not the only way the church has been adapting to the new realities of live under COVID-19. Services are now live-streamed on the organization’s website and Facebook page. Kraft says many other Anglican churches are doing the same.

She has been offering other supports online as well. That includes meetings with congregants over Zoom and a weekly children’s talk. This week, she plans to run a video on children’s crafts.

Kraft said if anything positive can come out of the pandemic, it may be that people are realizing the true value of compassion and human connection. She’s seen that in members of her own church, she said.

“If this terrible pandemic can draw us closer to each other in kindness and compassion for all people, then it’s as if God’s making something wonderful out of something so very frightening.”




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