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April 10, 2020 // Cathy Planchard // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

A Rabbi and a Priest Walk into a Zoom Conference

By Cathy Planchard

I’ve experienced a lot of firsts this week. Many times, I scratched my head at how surreal all of this seems – the run on paper products, empty grocery shelves and joggers adorned with facemasks.

But this past week set a new bar for the bizarre, as I watched the most holy of weeks for religions worldwide unfold before me through the lens of a TV screen and webcam.

We’ve all held way more video conferences in the past three weeks than we ever thought possible. We’ve gotten accustomed to online birthday celebrations, virtual office happy hours and walking our parents and cousins through the process of setting up cameras and mics (with varying degrees of success). But Passover and Easter online?

In a world that desperately craves that which it can’t have – personal touch, reassurance and clarity – we hold on to all the traditions we can, albeit in new ways. Community, family and faith are more important than ever before. And social distancing does not mean spiritual distancing.

Watching the adaptability and creativity of families holding true to tradition and faith has deeply inspired me. Families across the country that normally spend the High Holy Days together held their Seders online. A friend shared how her extended family of 40 that would normally gather in her home instead united by Zoom. And there were other technology assists. Because the Haggadah reading order is often divided among those in attendance, was created especially for this year’s virtual holiday.

My priest and parish were also in on the innovation. Ever heard of a drive-by confession? Imagine my surprise as I drove up to the church, followed the orange cones and confessed from the comfort of my car, while my priest stood a safe distance away. It beats a small, enclosed booth any day.

Easter Sunday Mass will be livestreamed. I’ll watch it from my living room on our biggest TV, dressed up of course. I can only imagine EWTN has seen the highest viewership in its history.

I’ll miss the frilly Easter dresses of our youngest parishioners, the bonnets and barely contained energy (fueled by too many chocolate Easter bunnies). But I fully expect families will continue to adapt, that new traditions will form. Maybe virtual egg hunts will become a thing.

Either way, I’ll scour my social channels and Nextdoor app to share in the Easter fun. And I’ll be buoyed by the fact that in the face of adversity, we adapt. We stay true to our traditions. We get assists from technology. And ultimately, we persevere.

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Cathy Planchard is global president of All Told, overseeing the company’s content, digital, creative, research and measurement teams. She is an avid traveler, Saints fan and spicy Cajun cook.

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