Holy week/holy month
Due to the current COVID-19 crisis we are mindful that this year will be very different for people as we approach holy week/holy month, in terms of practicing religious observations and celebrations marking Easter, Passover, Vaisakhi and Ramadan, as these are traditionally communal activities and prayer are observed and encouraged.
The most important week in the Christian calendar beginning on Palm Sunday where palm crosses are traditionally given out in churches to acknowledge Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey with the crowds waving palms. Maundy Thursday remembered by Christians as the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and the ceremony of the Eucharist, breaking bread and wine he shared with his disciples. Good Friday the day of Jesus’s crucifixion Christians contemplate the hour of the cross. Easter Sunday the day of celebration of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead and the promise of eternal life. The day of Joy and celebration when Christians attend Church to celebrate with Holy Communion.
All places of worship are closed due to the restrictions with COVID-19, however despite church buildings being closed the body of the church i.e. the worshippers, the people, Christians are finding ways of connecting through virtual worship and online streaming. The importance of Christian fellowship particularly during these difficult days brings much hope, comfort and support. Similarly it’s important Christians have space and time to meditate, reflect and pray which can be expressed in many ways as there are individuals depending on personal and Church traditions.
Passover (Pesach) – Jewish 8th – 16th April 2020 is a major festival lasting eight days, commemorating the liberation of the Children of Israel and their Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The highlight is the Seder meal, held in each family’s home at the beginning of the festival, when the story of their deliverance is recounted, as narrated in the Haggadah. Matzah, (unleavened bread) is eaten throughout the festival, as are other foods that contain no yeast. There is a major spring cleaning in the home shortly before the festival to ensure that no trace of leaven is left in the house during the festival period.
Jewish observances start at sunset of the previous day, meaning that some flexibility to start and leave work a little earlier may be appreciated by staff who may typically work hours close to sunset. A considerable portion of annual leave may be used by staff wishing to observe the 'no work' rules of some Jewish holidays and colleagues may ask for leave for religious reasons during this time.
Vaisakhi 13th April, 2020 is considered the most significant day in the Sikh calendar. It was on this day that the Khalsa was founded back in 1699 and marks the Sikh new year. Sikhs celebrate this event in the form of prayer, singing of the Keertan (hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib) and local procession in Derby called the Nagar Keertan. Gurdwaras – Sikh temples/places of worship are closed in line with government COVID19 guidelines and gatherings suspended but local Gurudwaras have set up live streaming of programmes on social media so that people who are self-isolating can continue to engage in prayer as part of the on-line sangat (community).
The month of Ramadan will begin on the evening of Thursday 23 April and end on the evening of Saturday 23 May. Ramadan involves a daily period of fasting for Muslims starting at sunrise and finishing at sunset over the month. This means abstaining from food, drink (including water) and smoking. While fasting is an important part of Ramadan, it is also a time of self-reflection and self-evaluation for Muslims. This year will be very different for staff who are Muslim and observe fasting during Ramadan, as traditionally communal activities and prayer are observed and encouraged. The health and wellbeing of our staff is important at all times, but particularly during this period, managers are asked to ensure colleagues are continued to be supported with provision for appropriate washing facilities, access to a quiet space to pray, flexible breaks and meals available directly after sunset and another just before sunrise. At the end of Ramadan staff may request leave to celebrate Eid Ul Fir, the festival of breaking the fast.
Further information and guides can be found via https://www.nhsemployers.org/news/2020/04/ramadan-2020. The Muslim Council for Britain will be providing further information on their website.