On the Threshold of April 2021

Last Easter, the first lockdown in The Netherlands was so strict and severe that Holy Week could not be celebrated in church. Everything was literally closed. All the ceremonies were video streamed from my living room. The singing and broadcasting from home made my neighbors wonder what was going on in our apartment building. Back then, we never thought that for Holy Week 2021, we would still find ourselves in lockdown and that the vast majority of people in Europe would still not be vaccinated against COVID.

The good news for this Easter, however, is that various vaccines have been approved and we can celebrate in church again, albeit with very restricted numbers. The good times in which 5000 people would gather for the Holy Week ceremonies at COS as in previous years before the pandemic, feel like a long time ago. But at least, with the improved video streaming facilities from our church, we can continue to reach out to people with the comforting messages from the Holy Week liturgies.

Besides all the prayers and worship, other signs of new life continued to happen during this challenging year. Our groups and volunteers reached out to each other and to people outside the church with many activities and personal initiatives to maintain and strengthen bonds. Even though the community is less visible in a physical way, it certainly is very tangible on many other different levels.

I’d like to illustrate this with a few examples. The freezer in our cellar under the kitchen continued to be filled throughout the entire year with food for the homeless. Thousands of meals were provided for them and distributed in take away containers. The coordinator of the program shared that, “All our cooks are so happy to do this, and it gives us tremendous joy!”

Secondly, there are several spontaneous online prayer and inspiration groups in our parish who continue to help each other keep up a positive mindset and feel less isolated.

Thirdly, we continue to receive many requests for counseling and prayers from parishioners who miss having their families close to them, especially when they experience sickness, loss of jobs or relationships, or much worse: loss of a loved one. We just had the funeral of one-week old baby Elise in our church. Our community then becomes the family away from home. The comfort and feeling of belonging that comes from an open door in a time when many others are closed, extends a very real helping hand.

During March, we also had several very joyful events. The teenagers, whose confirmations were cancelled last year, were confirmed; a large group of children preparing for their First Communion had their First Reconciliation; the COS Key Connection Lenten Campaign as well as the Kerkbalans Campaign were highly successful; and a new monument in memory of the anonymous refugees who died during their flight at sea and in the desert, was designed and approved. This monument will be placed in our church garden on Sunday, 18April.  

Corona teaches us to count our daily blessings and to look upon each day lived in health as a priceless gift. In April, we celebrate the beautiful mystery that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is at the heart of blessings for those who put their faith and trust in Him. The effects from that perspective remain clearly visible and tangible in our community.

From all the Staff and the Parish Board, I wish you all a very Happy Easter.

Fr. Sjaak