Despite pandemic, Holy Week is processing across the Red River Valley

Area church leaders find ways to reach out to congregations.

During Our Savior's Lutheran Church's Good Friday Service in East Grand Forks, Pastor Paul Trenne carries the cross to the alter while a half dozen choir members take part in the online service. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Plains pastors, like many across the country, this year will celebrate the age-old rituals of Holy Week in nontraditional ways.

Holy Week, the seven days before Easter, typically is celebrated by Christians within their church sanctuaries. But this year, because the buildings were closed to reduce the spread of coronavirus, ministers and priests are finding other ways to mark the week.

At Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, for example, the Rev. Paul Trenne is livestreaming April 9 Maundy Thursday and April 10 Good Friday services, which will be available to watch on the church’s website and Facebook page at 6 p.m. those days.

The Good Friday service will include excerpts from Peter’s Diary, which has been part of the church’s Lenten devotions, and a narrative reading of the Passion from the Gospel of St. Mark. The Passion details the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

“We’re trying to do some of the traditional pieces in ways that are engaging, and that works when you’re not physically present,” Trenne said.


Livestreaming the church services not only is a way that church members can participate virtually in Our Savior’s services, it also helps Trenne stay connected to his congregation, Trenne said.

For example, during the filming of the April 5 Palm Sunday service, moved by the words to “Glory, Laud and Honor,” sung by a few choir members, Trenne could feel the presence of the church members in the sanctuary, even though it was empty, he said.

“I sat down on the altar steps like I do normally with the children during the children’s sermon. I could visualize them there,” Trenne said.

In Grand Forks, the Rev. Harvey Henderson, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church interim pastor, will use livestream to deliver the Stations of the Cross to his flock. The 14 Stations of the Cross, a series of pictures or carvings that depict the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, beginning with his condemnation by Pontius Pilate, will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. Friday on Facebook and YouTube, Henderson said.

“Folks can follow along” with the stations from their homes, Henderson said.

At Hope Church in Grand Forks members are marking Good Friday with an online drama filmed in seven separate monologues. The monologues will be on the seven last words of Jesus Christ.

The words include “I thirst, Father forgive them for they know not what they do, and It is finished,” said the Rev. Paul Knight, Hope Church pastor. The monologues, written by members of Hope Church, will be separated by worship music.


“We’re calling it a Good Friday worship and reflection," Knight said of the online drama which will be available for viewing on Hope Church's website and Facebook page at 7 p.m. Friday.

On Good Friday, the Rev. Jeff Lathrop, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Grand Forks, plans to livestream at 7 p.m. on Facebook, his thoughts about Jesus’ words from the cross. Lathrop also is encouraging members of his congregation to do acts of charity for their neighbors.

For example, on Palm Sunday, he suggested that church members take the palms they received at a drive-thru communion service and go a block from their homes and wave them at their neighbors. Lathrlop also encouraged church members to help their neighbors with practical things, such as offering to clean their homes’ eaves troughs and volunteering to deliver meals to children.

“We can still do small acts of service to others as a witness of what we’re about,” Lathrop said.

Besides watching live streamed Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday Masses and services on Good Friday, the Diocese of Fargo is encouraging Roman Catholics to do personal sacrifices and acts of charity, according to “A guide to Holy Week at home.”

On Holy Thursday, for example, individuals and families can keep vigil with Jesus for one hour of prayer, and on Good Friday, they can forgive someone who has hurt them, the diocese suggested. On Holy Saturday, they can light a candle to put on their windowsills, representing the light Jesus Christs brings into the darkness.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inviting people of all faiths to fast on Good Friday, noting that fasting is a spiritual practice.

“For all whose health may permit, let us fast, pray and unite our faith once again. Let us prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic,” said Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Russell M. Nelson, in a news release.


Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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