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Palm Sunday Hosannas celebrated in new ways during pandemic

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

Congregations shouted "Hosanna," and celebrated Palm Sunday through parades, phone-in worship, and drive-in worship.

Phone Audio Worship

Rev. Peary Wilson, leads worship by phone for the members of Pringle UMC. Photo courtesy of Peary Wilson.

Pringle UMC phones in

Rev. Peary Wilson, who serves the United Methodist Church in Pringle, South Dakota, celebrated Palm Sunday with 16 families over the phone. It was the second Sunday the congregation gathered using only the audio or phone-in feature of Blue Jeans—a video conferencing platform, similar to Zoom. "The second week went better than the first week," said Wilson. "I purchased a headset with a microphone, and that made things much clearer for everyone."  

One of the highlights of the service was having everyone share their prayer concerns. "I had people share their prayer concerns in groups. I called on people whose first names started with A-F to share first and then I invited other groups to share." Several people shared their prayer concerns, even a couple who had attended only a few times.

Wilson says, "The service went very, very well. I had to do some things differently, like not let the lag time of people saying the Lord's Prayer cause me to pause. People are grateful. It is important to worship, and  to stay connected. Some of the older folks need this. The younger people who live alone need this also. It is encouraging that we have some new people, who are staying connected. It helps everyone to stay in place."

Aberdeen North Highland

Communion servers, left prepare to deliver communion to cars, while song leaders invite people to sing along in their cars at Palm Sunday in the Car, hosted by North Highland UMC.

North Highland UMC holds  Palm Sunday in the Car

North Highland United Methodist Church in Aberdeen, South Dakota, held an event called Palm Sunday in the Car. The online worship service was held at 10 a.m. Then at 11:45 a.m., 60  cars and pickups pulled into the church parking lot. Each vehicle was adorned with a sign, crafted from coloring a paper palm, or the word Hosanna. When cars arrived, people were asked to stay in their cars, live music played, and people were invited to sing along in cars. Music was followed by brief words of institution and the Lord's Prayer. Communion elements of sealed, individual servings of  grape juice and a wafer were specially ordered. Communion was distributed by servers that wore gloves, as people held their hands out car windows. The celebrant, Rev. Lou Whitmer, who serves North Highland UMC, and the communion servers, waved palm branches in the parking lot and invited those gathered in their cars to sing Halle Halle Hallelujah. Cars paraded with signs on each vehicle through neighborhoods. 

Wessington Springs

Drive-in worship at Woonsocket, South Dakota on Palm Sunday. Photo courtesy of John Anderson and Spirit of Faith church.

Drive-in worship at UMCs in Wessington Springs and Miller

In response to the need to suspend in-building gatherings due to COVID-19, Wessington Springs UMC in Wessington Springs, South Dakota, decided to have a drive-in church. On March 29, the congregation hosted the worship service in front of the church building with live music and the message shared from the church steps. An FM transmitter was used to broadcast to the 36 vehicles in attendance. Limited street parking caused the service for Palm Sunday to move to the elementary school parking lot. Eighty-seven cars were present with an estimated 180 people in attendance. Watch a video of how the set-up and FM transmission works here

First UMC in Miller, South Dakota, also held a drive-in worship service on Palm Sunday. Rev. Teresa Whetsel led the congregation in liturgy and preached from the front door of the church building. People tuned in on a radio station and participated. "It was wonderful. Everything was safe and sanitary. We had tears of joy in our vehicle. Seeing all the familiar faces was overwhelming," posted one of the worshippers at the drive-in service. 

Spirit of Faith in Woonsocket, South held drive-in worship right outside the front door on Palm Sunday. People sat in vehicles and worshipped as Rev. John Anderson preached. The services was followed by a palm parade through town with poeple honking and waving palms. Pastor Anderson says, "It is so good to be back together and see those smiling faces!"  Watch the full service here

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Participants in the virtual Palm celebration at McCabe UMC in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Virtual Palm Parades : In Bismarck, North Dakota, virtual palm displays were part of the online worship at Legacy UMC and McCabe UMC.  At Legacy, worshippers viewing online were invited to post a photo of their palm creation to Twitter and Facebook. Members at McCabe UMC submitted short videos waving hands, home-made palms, and walks in honor of Hosannas. The videos were shown during the opening hymn. View the virtual Palm celebration here

More Palm Sunday parades were held at United Methodist Churches in Bowman, North Dakota, Huron, South Dakota, and Mitchell, South Dakota. View the palm parade held at Downtown First UMC in Mitchell, South Dakota here.

We would love to hear from more of you about what happened Palm Sunday, and how you are celebrating Holy Week and Easter. Please share your stories, videos, and photos with us in one of three ways:

1. Submit your story through this form, where you can directly upload photos and videos.
2. Send the story as an e-mail to Photos and videos can be attached.
3. Text stories, ideas, and contact information to 605.770.8540.


Dakotas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church 605.996.6552 AC2021 slider.jpg 1331 University Ave. Mitchell SD 57301-0460 US 43.69689310 -98.03291320 122 W. Franklin Avenue Ste 400 Minneapolis MN 55404 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 W University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000 1331 University Ave Mitchell SD 57301 US 0.00000000 0.00000000