“We gather together in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Father Gary Dowsey, the Pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dunedin, begins 9 a.m. Mass during Holy Week.

A liturgical reader sits at the ready, an altar server holds a book open and a music director plays the piano.

And their only audience – the two-person production crew live streaming the mass.

For Catholics and other Christians, the week leading up to Easter is the most important week of the year.

But the pews are empty. COVID-19 is changing how people gather – or don’t.

“Well obviously celebrating Catholic Mass in an empty church is a totally different experience,” said Father Dowsey. “Despite everything that’s happening, we still have much to give thanks to God for.”

The Church is still offering food through the St. Vincent DePaul Society Monday through Fridays from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.

And the Lend a Hand Ministry is available if anyone is having difficulty in getting out or getting groceries.

Father Dowsey’s advice in these times of uncertainty? Be not afraid.

“I know people are feeling very anxious, some of them feeling afraid and Jesus said more than anything else do not be afraid. He knew and does know that fear can really envelop a person‘s heart and can do a lot of damage to their faith in their relationships with others.”

“I hope we emerge from this with a more thankful and grateful heart,” said Father Dowsey.