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A ‘message of hope and joy’

Churches find ways to share message of Easter

 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, congregations and families across the community will celebrate Easter differently this year. Despite the changes, local pastors say they hope their parishioners will use the day as a time to to reflect upon the significance of Easter and the hope it brings.

Clayton Balsley, pastor of Bridge Community Church, said his church had planned to have a drive-up worship service with attendees tuning in on their vehicle’s radio for its Easter service, but with snow in the forecast, it will default back to posting an Easter message online with hopes that the weather will be better the following Sunday.

“Regardless of whether or not we can gather corporately to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the main message of Easter remains the same,” Balsley said. “God sent his one and only Son to pay the price of our sin by dying in our place and defeated death by being raised back to life.”

He said this offers hope and encouragement because it reminds people that there is life beyond this world and that they should not fear the present.

He is encouraging his church family to not dwell on the reality that they can’t celebrate Easter the same way they usually do.

“There will be other Easters,” Balsley said. “Rather, use this change in routine to spend more time reflecting on the significance of Easter and the hope it brings. Considering the current condition of our world and the fears that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need the message of Easter now more than ever. As followers of Christ, we have a great opportunity to bring that message of hope and joy in the midst of much despair.”

He said like most other churches in the area, Bridge Community Church has used various forms of technology to keep people informed as best as they can, and Sunday worship messages have been accessible on the church’s website and Facebook page. It has also begun holding weekly Bible study and youth group meetings via Zoom.

He is also making many phone calls to those without access to technology.

John Mitchem, pastor of United Methodist Church, said his church, too, will have an online Facebook live service but will treat the service the same as it would otherwise, with the message, music and decorations.

Mitchem said he plans to have a similar Easter message the first Sunday the church is reopened.

“Hope for today, strength for tomorrow is our mantle of United Methodist Church, and it fits Easter perfectly,” he said.

He noted he thinks the pandemic has increased the unity amongst his congregation. People are calling and checking on other members in a systematic way. They are having online Bible studies, along with the online church service, in addition to youth groups on Zoom.

“It’s really neat,” Mitchem said. “We just have to rethink how we do church.”

One of Mitchem’s church members, Sharon Bednar, said she has been watching the services each Sunday on her computer at Senior Court.

The first week it started, she and two members who live in the building watched the service, and then as the weeks have gone on, that number increased and others who haven’t been able to go to their church have started listening in.

She said last week she bought some palm leaves from Addie’s Floral & Gifts and they had communion as well. She also printed off the songs that were used in the service ahead of time.

“Everybody was spaced out,” Bednar said. “We try to keep the six feet rule.”

This Sunday, she said, she and the others plan to have a potluck.

She said never anticipated her small group of three would grow to eight, but she is glad they are able to still worship, particularly at this time of year.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “This is the time of the year that’s probably the most important in the Christian community. Not being able to go to church, you find another way.”