A socially distanced Holy Week

Students and faculty prepare to celebrate Good Friday and Easter during the pandemic


Jamison Van Andel

An outdoor service will be held at the Seminary Pond on Easter Morning.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic impacts every aspect of life, the impact has been especially acutely felt at important dates and holidays throughout the year. Plans for Easter celebrations have led to laments for what was lost and hope for what’s still possible.

When Calvin administration announced in October that classes would be held on Good Friday, some students expressed frustration and disappointment with the decision. 

“I have always dedicated the entirety of Good Friday as a day of fasting, prayer, meditation, and contemplation, but that is obviously impossible with being forced to attend class,” said senior Derek Jay, who wrote a Chimes op-ed on the subject. “It has the effect of cheapening Good Friday by making it like any other day of class.”

Jay said that he believes the decision overemphasizes the risk of COVID-19 exposure, especially given that such exposure could happen during in-person classes. 

“[I]t makes it seem as if we have lost our priorities,” Jay said. “There is no more important time for us Christians than Holy Week, and having classes on Good Friday disparages that importance.”

Provost Cheryl Brandsen said that the decisions to cancel spring break and to hold class on Friday were both made in the interest of health, at a time when widespread vaccination was still long off.

“Before making the decision to hold classes on Good Friday, I consulted with the president’s cabinet and also, in particular, Pastor Mary and vice-president Visser,” Brandsen said. “While we regretted the necessity to hold classes on Good Friday in our continuing efforts to limit the transmission of the virus, we agreed there are many ways to commemorate Holy Week.”

Campus ministries has scheduled a slate of events throughout the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Daily chapel services, led by CRC pastor Rev. Laura de Jong, Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige, CRCNA Director of Diversity Rev. Reggie Smith, and Calvin Seminary’s Rev. Scott Hoezee, will reflect on Christ’s suffering and crucifixion.

On Good Friday, Calvin will host a Tenebrae service at 4 p.m. in the CFAC auditorium. The service will include performances by Capella and Women’s Chorale. 

On Easter Sunday, Calvin is holding a 10 a.m. outdoor service at the Seminary Pond in order to accommodate more people. Campus ministries is encouraging students to take part in this on-campus worship service instead of worshipping with local congregations in order to limit spread of COVID-19, especially given the possibility of higher worship service turnout on Easter Sunday. 

Jonas Tilburt, a Calvin Worship Apprentice, said that Holy Week is something he looks forward to every year, and he has felt the impact of the pandemic leading up to Holy Week. 

“Holy Week is very different emotionally this year. I personally had some trouble engaging with Lent this year due to the state of the world….” Tilburt said. “Holy Week is different this year because it’s a time when we empty ourselves, and our community is already running on empty.”

As a Worship Apprentice, Tilburt will take part in the execution of some Holy Week events, working to make the Good Friday and Easter services happen. 

Pastor Paul Ryan emphasized that although the pandemic has unfortunately disrupted many Holy Week traditions, this year provides a unique opportunity to celebrate with others at Calvin. 

“Most years we are apart since we don’t have classes on Good Friday and the Monday after Easter,” Ryan said. “While we wish we could be with our families, this is a unique time to experience these services together as a Calvin community.”

Those interested can watch live streamed chapel services during Holy Week on Calvin’s website or sign up to attend in person. Tickets for Easter Sunday’s outdoor service are available on Eventbrite.