The restrictions that come with trying to maintain safe social distance to stop the spread of COVID-19 has meant changes to almost every aspect of people’s lives including Easter celebrations.
Gone are the massive community or congregational egg hunts and packed churches full of people dressed in their Sunday best with hearts full from praising God together with their fellow believers.
But, having to keep a safe distance from one another has not stopped local churches from planning ways to bring their congregations together in spirit and faith.
At Forest Avenue Baptist Church in Sherman, they started having drive up services on Wednesday nights that have even included a meal enjoyed by families in their individual cars. At other churches, social media sites have taken the place of the physical place of worship.
Forest Avenue Baptist Church in Sherman, Pastor Brian Taylor said he was feeling a bit dejected when he realized that he would have to cancel his church’s traditional worship services in light of the COVID-19 restrictions put in place by state leaders. But he soon saw his spirits rallied when his congregation showed up to worship together via the internet.
“The first Sunday, March 22 we went live on Facebook, we saw a lot of traffic. We reached 1193 people on Facebook, with 956 views. I was utterly amazed and shocked. Also that same Sunday we began online giving, and in the first two weeks of online giving we saw well over a thousand dollars given. We were praising God, and wondering what in the world He was doing with this little church that normally averages less than a hundred people each Sunday,” Taylor said.
He added that his church probably would have never done those things had the situation not forced them to get creative. “We praise God for the response of the people, and for the hunger that is in Grayson County for worshiping Jesus – even if it looks a little bit different during the COVID 19 pandemic.”
Lander Bethel, pastor at Grand Avenue Presbyterian Church in Sherman, said the online services have been going well for that congregation. In fact, he said, so many churches have had such success with the online services that this past Sunday they had a hard time loading their services onto social media feeds because the system was overwhelmed with the traffic. For that reason, he said, his congregation will be doing their services a bit earlier than normal so they can get them loaded early on Easter Sunday.
Bethel said that this set of circumstances has, perhaps, taught people that they don’t need to be in the same place physically to join together in their faith. They are even going to do a virtual communion service where people will be encouraged to have their own bread and wine or even just bread and water to symbolize the body and blood of Christ.
Revered Cheryl Murphy at Waples Memorial Methodist United Methodist Church in Denison, said the need to meet together in a different way has forced many church leaders to become more creative in reaching out to their congregations. From assigning congregation members to check on those who might be more prone to struggle with this forced isolation to daily emails containing scripture and a prayer, Murphy said the goal is foster that feeling of community that people generally get from being together as they worship.
She said she has made, and will continue to make, an effort to make children feel included in the virtual services by setting aside some time to talk directly to them and include the kinds of coloring sheets and things that children might get in Sunday school in her emails. The online services, she said, are shorter than traditional services and the hope is that families can use that extra time to do things to help grow their faith as a family.
Egg hunts, she said, are generally a big thing for their church and it will be sad not to do it the same way this year. However, there is nothing stopping families from holding their own egg hunts during this time of isolation.
Bethel said Easter is a time of celebrating the love that Christ felt for mankind and keeping the safe social distance that authorities prescribe to stop the spread of a virus that could kill people is another way of showing that sort of sacrificial love that Christ had for all of mankind.