Diocese of North Carolina Shares Approved Methods for Distributing Palms
Updated March 27, 2020
Update: With various counties issuing stay-at-home orders, we have created a digital option for distributing paper palms in lieu of distributing traditional palms. If your county is under a stay-at-home order, you MUST CHECK with local or city officials to determine what parameters are in place for clergy as “essential personnel.” However, to adhere to the spirit of all stay-at-home orders, the Diocese does NOT recommend the in-person distribution of palms and asks that all churches celebrate Palm Sunday with the creation of at-home palms with the digital option listed below.
In these times, it is the Church’s perplexing yet joyful work to discern ways to continue meaningful worship, and to weave our community more tightly together while staying at a physical distance that does not put our neighbors or ourselves in danger. As Palm Sunday approaches, some of you may be wondering whether, and how, you might distribute one of the tangible signs of the hope we place in the Triune God: palm branches.
After much prayer, thought, and consultation with public health advisers, themselves faithful Episcopalians, we offer the following ways in which palm branches can be distributed before Palm Sunday, for use in homes on Palm Sunday.
If your church is not able to distribute traditional palms due to a stay-at-home order, you may download and print graphics (drawn by The Rev. Canon Earnest Graham) to color and cut out at home. You can use them on Palm Sunday as you would a live branch, and also put them up on your front door or around your house for the day or the week, as a sign of your household’s expectant waiting for Jesus’s return.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to make palm crosses, this might be the year to practice with a strip of paper. Instructions abound on the Internet—or perhaps a member of your church would be able to hold a folding tutorial by Zoom.
Your bishops appreciate that for many of us, it’s challenging to contemplate marking Palm Sunday without live palms. This is one of the many disappointments and losses we are all facing in this extraordinarily challenging Lenten season. And yet we trust that, even if we are left without these tangible signs of the welcome we offer Christ Jesus as Lord of our lives, he is still with us. United, we remain his Body, and together, we look forward to the day when we can once again worship him together, with all the visible symbols of our incarnate faith.
Please note: these are the only approved means of distribution for traditional palms.
- Palms may be distributed to parishioners, individually, at church by one clergyperson. The clergyperson must have no respiratory symptoms whatsoever, e.g. no fever, no sneezing, no coughing (even in this spring allergy season). Even though they have no symptoms, the person distributing palms must wear gloves and cover their mouth (e.g. with a kerchief or with a mask such as one might have at home to use while painting). When distributing palms to parishioners individually in their cars, or on their bicycles, or arriving on foot, the clergyperson must keep a distance of at least six feet. As each parishioner approaches, the clergyperson will take that person's palm(s) from the pile or bundle at the clergyperson's side (e.g. on a table or chair) and place it/them on another table at least six feet away, from which the parishioner will pick it/them up. There is no need to disinfect palms before distributing them.
- Palms may be delivered to parishioners’ homes by volunteers working individually. In this case, the Church can’t send its ministers out two by two. Anyone volunteering to distribute palms must have no respiratory symptoms whatsoever, e.g. no fever, no sneezing, no coughing (even in this spring allergy season). They must leave the palms outside the parishioner’s home, although they may offer a friendly wave through a closed door or window.
Volunteers must pick up their bundle of palms and list of names and addresses individually, at pre-determined times; tools like SignUp Genius can be used to facilitate this process. One clergyperson must prepare the palms for pickup and distribution; must remain with the bundles of palms during the distribution period; and must stay at least six feet away from volunteers picking up the palms. Volunteers must understand that, if they arrive to pick up palms before the previous person has left, they must stand back and wait (again, they can offer their fellow minister a friendly wave). There is no need to disinfect palms before distributing them.
Our present circumstances offer opportunities, not only to continue to worship and support each other, but to be a light to the world by modeling practices that strengthen community and offer hope, while taking appropriate precautions. As you shine the light of Christ in creative and careful ways, we give thanks for you.
*Artwork by the Rev. Canon Earnest Graham