Changes Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic
Men, women, boys, and girls frantically walk to and fro anxiously getting ready for the day. Mother and son, father and daughter dressed in their finest formal dresses and button-down shirts. As they prepare for their weekly hour renewing the presence of Jesus’s spirit into their souls, they walk to their living room, sit down on the couch, and open up the Facebook livestream on the PNCC.
The pandemic has caused unfortunate circumstances to every individual, but for the Polish National Catholic Church community, it continues to make a dire situation worse. Finding a sense of community already proved to be difficult prior to the pandemic and now, being physically apart from each other, the feeling of community has worn down. However, with their devotion to their faith, they have succeeded in adapting to our world’s new normal.
Below is the link to the PNCC’s Youtube channel which includes all masses since the switch to online service. New services are uploaded at 7:00 am (EST) each Sunday on both their PNCC Liturgies Youtube page and the PNCC Facebook page.
Youtube page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0eKXXigCLus5trUPaWkvIg
Most Rev. Anthony Makovsky, in St. Valentine Polish National Catholic Church located in Scranton, PA, begins the service singing a Christian hymn, which prior was sung by select members of the Church. Even towards the beginning of Mass, the consequences of coronavirus can be felt. The singing of hymns is usually one of the aspects that makes the parishioners feel united, so not doing it together harms their sense of community.
A Spiritual Eucharist
Another part of Mass that was drastically changed was the sacrament of Eucharist. This specific sacrament plays a crucial role in PNCC worship, as the service is centered around it. During regular service, individual parishioners partake of a wafer (the body of Christ) and drink wine from a common cup (the blood of Christ). This ritual recreates Jesus’s Last Supper and re-presents Jesus’s death and resurrection to the gathered group of worshipers. Since online attendees cannot partake of the bread and the wine offered by the priest, a prayer is recited in place of this ritual act. The prayer’s words speak about hoping for Jesus to enter their bodies spiritually.
For the relatively few parishes of the PNCC that decided to maintain in-person services, such as St. Valentine’s Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, health and safety precautions were enacted to limit the spread of the virus. Masks are mandatory for members attending the service, but the Celebrant and other ministers do not wear masks to keep the service “natural”. Because of this, they stand apart from other people as much as possible. The pews are regularly disinfected, and loose objects such as the bibles and the holy water at the front of the church are removed to limit contact. First Communion is still held, but the minister enacting the ceremony is required to wear a mask, and audiences are reduced to only the person receiving or giving communion and parents.
Prior to the pandemic, the PNCC struggled with the falling membership numbers. This decline has been steady since the 1960s. It may be that the PNCC will see lower attendance in a post-pandemic world. Only time will tell.
Although many major seasons of the liturgical year were held online, including Lent and Easter, hope remains for the upcoming Advent season to be held together in-person, as a united front. One of the biggest occasions for the Christian faith is the celebration of Jesus’s birth which is usually celebrated with family and friends. Food, laughter, joy, and sounds of Christmas hymns surround the Church for the four Sundays of Advent. With the pandemic, it might be difficult to celebrate amongst each other. However, the PNCC has stood and overcome tough times before because of their devotion to the community that they built.
As the Prime Bishop, Rev. Anthony Makovsky emphasizes during his online homily on October 18, 2020, “Family is everything. We can find family and community with each other”. Because of the Polish National Catholic Church’s resilience and hope for the future and each other, they have a chance of adjusting to our world’s new normal.
Citation: Polish National Catholic Church. (2020, October 18). Mass for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time- Celebrated by PNCC Prime Bishop Makovsky. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/PNCC1/.