Though there may not be festive Easter attire, full choir specials and Sunday morning handshakes and hugs, church and the celebration of Easter is still taking place this weekend.
For Crossroads Baptist Church, services have been occurring online only for several weeks through Facebook. This Sunday the church will host two services: a sunrise online service at 6:30 a.m. and Easter service at 10:30 a.m., including a special Lord’s Supper.
Throughout the week, the church has been offering “communion to go” boxes for families. These boxes include grape juice and a wafer on top.
According to Crossroads Baptist Church Associate Pastor James Runnels, the Lord’s Supper boxes come prepackaged so the church’s congregants are safer from germs.
The boxes are being placed in the church’s drive-thru area, making it easier for families to pick them up and stay physically distant from church staff and other people.
“We’ve used these before when it has been practical to do so,” Runnels explained.
The church also delivered special goody baskets, including communion to go packages and other needs to those who were not able to get out to get them. Families also received fun activities for kids to do this week for Easter.
Though the church considered holding a drive-in service, due to spacing requirements and the anticipated weather, they decided simply to continue hosting church services online for Easter.
“10 to 15 years ago we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” Runnels said about the technology of holding church online.
Though there are definite downsides, such as missing out on fellowship with other Christians, Runnels said that more people are tuning into church online, including individuals who do not live locally.
“The internet has expanded our reach,” he said.
“We will get back together eventually and when we do everyone will be excited to attend church together again,” he said. “It will be like a revival.”
Church service include worship music that viewers can sing with and a message.
At First United Methodist Church in Marshall, online services have also been taking place each week at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Easter Sunday worship will also be held at that time as well as an Easter sunrise service at 6:45 a.m. Services can be viewed online at https://www.facebook.com/fumcmarshall/.
When online services first started several weeks ago, the church was having eight to 10 people show up to participate in the recording, music and preaching, according to Associate Pastor Harold Coburn.
However, with social distancing guidelines changing and a shelter-in-place order being put into place, the church has started recording portions separately and putting them together into one service.
The church is using Zoom for their music component in order to keep everyone safe and away from one another, Coburn said.
“We have a super talented worship leader, Robert Miller, who is very knowledgeable in technology,” he said.
The pastor acknowledges that everyone is missing the personal bond of worshiping live with other Christians but admits there are benefits to online-only services.
“There isn’t a certain time you have to attend a worship service. You can do it when it is convenient for you,” he said. “You can also attend in your PJs if you choose.”
For Coburn and other pastors and worship leaders, singing or preaching to an empty room can be odd and challenging since they are accustomed to being in a house of worship with live congregants.
“Where’s the fellowship? You miss out on those you have developed a bond with,” he said. “But the church is not the building. The church is the people, and it’s important to remember that in times like these.”
As an added benefit to the community, FUMC has started a program for the community where anyone can reach out if they need anything, such as running errands, help getting supplies etc. To participate, email email@example.com.
At Immanuel Baptist Church, a new way of doing worship has become the “new normal” as the church prepares to have their fourth Sunday online at Easter.
“We talked about doing something different for Easter but wanted to be respectful and not encourage our members to do anything outside their homes,” Senior Pastor Shawn Smith said.
For Easter the church offered an online Good Friday service, an extended worship set with traditional Easter songs and an online service for Sunday morning. Services can be found online at https://ibcmarshall.com/ or on Facebook and Youtube. The church is also offering a daily Bible study.
Though the church has been able to iron out the details of meeting and recording online, being apart from one another is difficult, he said.
“We are all about the community,” he said. “We are still trying to support the community and be there for those who are feeling especially isolated right now.”
Smith said that even when stay at home orders are lifted, churches will have to figure out what worship will look like again.
“We just don’t know if there will be social distancing guidelines in effect still, or other restrictions,” he said. “But for our congregation and the community we want to be part of the solution not part of the problem.”
For a list of Easter services, see page 6A.