Cover Story: For the first time, the world celebrates virtual Passover and Easter


Seder plates are filled with Passover symbols. American churches love Easter Lilies.



COVER STORY—This is an unprecedented month as Martin Davis points out in his column this week. Traditional gatherings have been cancelled for major observances in all three Abrahamic faiths on a global scale. This crisis also comes at a time of unprecedented access to the Internet.

Never-before-seen gatherings are being planned from the most intimate “virtual Seder” with a handful of relatives gathered around their digital screens as they move through the Haggadah—to worldwide connections like one planned by megachurch pastor Rick Warren. Healthy Muslims still will fast in Ramadan, but what about those enormous gatherings during the evenings of Ramadan and at the final Eid celebration? Those popular traditions will have to be adapted in many parts of the world.

Religious experiences will unfold this month that no reporter has ever covered. So, our writers—circling the globe—bring you a series of stories this week about this historic shift in global worship spanning more than 4 billion followers of Abrahamic traditions this month.

Once-in-a-lifetime: Virtual Passover, Easter, Ramadan

OUR FRIENDS at the INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION of RELIGION JOURNALISTS (IARJ) are tracking news about the remarkable expressions of faith emerging all around this planet among Jews, Christians and Muslims. This IARJ overview is a great place to start your reading, this week, packed with intriguing links that circle the globe.

IT’s a UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY to SHARE KINDNESS and COMPASSION—That’s what has prompted contributing columnist Martin Davis (also a member of the IARJ) to write a very personal appeal this week to all of our readers. Feeling helpless these days? Martin writes: That’s simply not so! You can become part of the caring community by sharing uplifting stories, like the ones published in ReadTheSpirit. In fact, this week, Martin invites readers to connect to his Facebook page, if you care to join him in sharing such stories.

From Our Community of Writers

HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS—Our holidays columnist Stephanie Fenton begins our coverage with an overview from the perspective of Palm Sunday (April 5) and Holy Week, plus this look at how Passover (starting on the evening of April 8) will truly be different, this year, form all other nights. Then, Stephanie also looks at Easter, which will be April 12 this year for Western Christians and April 19 for Eastern branches of the faith.

DEBRA DARVICK—The author of This Jewish Life contributes a column this week about Jewish families adjusting to virtual seders. She welcomes Christians to read along because “People of faith are people of faith. Your struggles are mine and vice versa.” Her column is headlined: “What? No seder?

BENJAMIN PRATT—From a Christian perspective, the author of Guide for Caregivers poses the question: “As Easter approaches in this overwhelming pandemic, when can we sing Alleluia? … Christians have a special perspective on this process of denial, separation, reconciliation and eventual celebration.”

Why do these holidays matter so much?

THESE TRADITIONS FORM OUR LIVES, writes Henry Brinton in his column this week, because they have shaped our lives—and the lives of our communities—for thousands of years. We must never forget their significance. He writes, “One blessing of this unique historical crisis is that all of us are reflecting in urgent new ways about the central meaning of these traditions in our lives.”

But wait! There’s More!

DID YOU GET YOUR FREE eBOOK from Rabbi Bob Alper last week? The offer lasts through April 11and Bob’s generosity as a standup comic has led him to launch a series called QUICK LAUGH. It’s a free service, described in this same column that tells you how to get the eBook.

We asked him: “Hey, Bob, after two weeks of such great deals—what could possibly come next week?”

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m thinking: free steak knives. I hear they even cut through cans!”


Care to see all of our Holidays & Festivals columns? It’s easy to find our annual calendar of global observances. Just remember the address




Click this image to learn about the April issue of Visual Parables Journal.


ED McNULTY, for decades, has published reviews, magazine articles and books exploring connections between faith and film. Most of his work is freely published. Ed supports his work by selling the Visual Parables Journal, a monthly magazine packed with discussion guides to films. This resource is used coast-to-coast by individuals who love the movies and by educators, clergy and small-group leaders.

Among Ed’s free reviews and columns are these 10 recommending movies that are guaranteed to lift your spirits—and are available for streaming right now via Amazon and/or Netflix. 

  1. REVOLUTION OF THE HEARTEd’s review urges us all to watch this documentary by Martin Doblmeier. Ed writes: “Dorothy Day, lived such a long and eventful life that his film is brimming with photos, narratives by those who knew her, and archival footage, much of which features her speaking for herself.
  2. BARRY—”Director Vikram Gandhi’s wonderful film, paired with the 2016 film Southside With You, would make a great double feature. This Netflix film focuses upon Barack Obama’s (Devon Terrell) life as a student of political science at Columbia University in 1981 New York City, a time when the city and its subways looked scruffy due to graffiti and litter.” (4.5 out of 5 stars)
  3. SELF-MADE—”Thanks to the fine performance of Octavia Spencer and her supporting cast, this is a very entertaining film. Madam C.J. Walker, well known to black Americans, is less familiar to the rest of us, but should be, due to her being the first black female who raised herself to the status of America’s first black woman millionaire.” (Stream on Netflix.)
  4. I STILL BELIEVEEd also reviews this based-on-a-true-story film about the evangelical Christian musician Jeremy Camp (K.J. Appa) and the tragic death of his wife. However, Ed cautions that the movie is lacks subtlety in its direct religious appeal to evangelical viewers. (Rent on Amazon.)
  5. ORDINARY LOVEIn contrast, Ed gives a 5-star rave review to this film co-starring Liam Neeson. He writes, “Despite what the title might lead one to expect, this is an extraordinary film.” (Rent on Amazon.)
  6. EMMA—”First time feature director Autumn de Wilde and screenwriter Eleanor Catton give us a delightful version of Jane Austin’s classic novel set in rural England around 1815.” (Rent this 2020 feature film on Amazon—and note: BritBox subscribers can stream the 4-part 2009 BBC production of Emma.)
  7. A MAN NAMED OVE—This quirky parable might be saying that Universe is not as cold and indifferent to our fate as some believe.” (Currently streaming free on Amazon Prime)
  8. ECHO IN THE CANYON—”Director Andrew Slater has assembled a galaxy of musicians and uses Grammy award-winning musician Jakob Dylan as his host to demonstrate the timelessness of these songs.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)
  9. FIDDLER ON THE ROOFWhy not relax with a true classic? (Streaming free on Amazon Prime) And, if you really love the movie—you can also watch Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles, because the 2019 documentary can now be rented on Amazon Prime. (Rent on Amazon Prime)
  10. MARY POPPINS RETURNS—”Although she seems a bit more reserved than an angel, the umbrella air-born Mary Poppins is a good stand-in for one for the Banks family in the two movies about her.” (Stream on Netflix; rent on Amazon Prime)







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