Sofia Gaviria Partow, Contributing Photographer

Easter is the busiest and most sacred time of year for churches around the world, and New Haven, a city home to over 300 Christian organizations, is no exception. 

New Haven’s churches have been hosting Holy Week events since Sunday, as most have been commemorating Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday with worship services. Maundy or Holy Thursday refers to the night of the Last Supper within the Christian tradition, while Good Friday marks the day of Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. Easter is the final celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, signifying new life and promise for many Christians.

“Easter is a time full of hope,” Rev. Stephen Holton DIV ’11 of Christ Church told the News. “We see the brokenness of a world that would try to kill the very love that God reveals in Jesus Christ. I’m not sure that the world has changed a whole lot from there, but we can rejoice in the resurrection, and that’s an exciting thing.”

Christ Church’s Holy Week program began with a series of events to commemorate Palm Sunday on March 24, including a blessing of the palms and a procession. This was followed by a Tenebrae service on Holy Wednesday, an event in which candles are gradually extinguished in the Church to mark the Bargain of Judas. On Thursday evening, a high mass, footwashing and stripping of the altar took place, in preparation for the final three days of Holy Week. 

Holton emphasized the importance of allowing time for rest and personal reflection amid the busy Holy Week. Each year, Good Friday and Easter cause financial markets to close, which Holton said, for him, mirrors how Jesus’ death literally halts the world in the scripture.  

“It’s a wonderful marker in a world that never stops when we can slow down and gather together to mark that moment, and then just two days later to gather again to mark the moment when love can’t be stopped,” Holton said, referring to the crucifixion and the resurrection.

Another of New Haven’s Episcopal churches, Trinity on the Green, is hosting a variety of similar events throughout the week. For Maundy Thursday, the church held a service for its Chapel on the Green community, composed of people living in or around the New Haven Green, some of whom are experiencing homelessness, hunger and poverty. The service included a foot washing clinic and a health fair in collaboration with the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center.

On Friday, Trinity on the Green will host a three-hour event called “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” which will include preaching and music encouraging reflection on Jesus’ last words before the crucifixion. Friday evening’s event will consist of a solemn liturgy during which candles will be illuminated at the foot of the Church’s cross. An Easter vigil on Sunday night will close the Holy Week celebrations at Trinity. 

“What’s powerful about Easter is the way that that theme of resurrection cuts across people from all backgrounds,” said Trinity Church Reverend Heidi Thorsen DIV ’19. “People who are dealing with mental health or homelessness need the resurrection, but also people who’ve been watching the news about violence in the world need resurrection.”

Thorsen also spoke about Lent, a forty-day period preceding the Holy Week during which many Christians give up an element of their daily lives to allow space for a greater connection to God in preparation for Easter. The forty days of Lent are related to the forty days that Jesus Christ spent wandering through the wilderness in the Bible. Thorsen highlighted the importance of embracing this spirit of wandering and uncertainty during Lent to allow for greater reflection and intentionality in life. 

The Blessed Michael McGivney Parish is the only Catholic parish in New Haven and includes all of the city’s Catholic churches. While events and mass times vary among churches, most will hold services Thursday through Sunday of the Holy Week. 

Included in the Parish are St. Anthony Church, which offers mass in both English and Spanish to accommodate its Latine community, and St. Stanislaus, a Polish Catholic church. On Saturday, St. Stanislaus will host a blessing of Easter food, a Polish tradition in which people bring baskets of the food they will prepare on Easter Day to be blessed by the priest.

This year will be the first Easter in which all of New Haven’s Catholic churches celebrate together as one after merging under the Blessed Michael McGivney Parish. According to Parish Communications Director Emily Naylor, this merging occurred in response to changes in church operations on the part of the Archdiocese of Hartford, the ecclesiastical district to which all New Haven Catholic churches belong. 

Discussing the merging of churches, Naylor spoke about the diversity of the Catholic Church’s community. 

“I think it’s beautiful that we’re able to bring all those different traditions and languages, again not eliminating any of it, but bringing it together in this beautiful way,” Naylor told the News. “God’s love and grace transcends any language.”

There are 395 Christian nonprofit organizations registered in New Haven. 

Nathaniel Rosenberg is City Editor for the News. He previously served as Audience Editor, where he managed the News's newsletter content, covered cops and courts and housing and homelessness for the City Desk. Originally from Silver Spring, MD, he is a junior in Morse College majoring in history.