Easter is the holiest of Christian holidays, with the faith’s many denominations celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Not even COVID-19 will stop them.
For weeks, congregations have not been allowed to gather in the traditional sense due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But local churches have found ways to worship while adhering to Alabama’s health orders that prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people and require social distancing. Many congregations have relied on technology and social media for sermons, Sunday school lessons and even music.
First Baptist Church of Dothan has hosted online services since March 15 and will do so for Easter, said Taylor Rutland, the church’s senior pastor. Church leaders discussed doing a special drive-in service for Easter but opted to stick with online services to ensure members stay safe.
“It’s the most important day of our faith because of what Jesus did, and the resurrection is everything that our faith hinges on,” Rutland said. “Without the resurrection, we don’t have any hope. We never questioned or had any doubt that we would pursue Easter services; it was just a matter of what method we were going to carry those out.”
Different way to reach out
At Johns Chapel AME Church in Enterprise, the congregation has been doing “drive-thru” services. Members pull into the church parking lot and take a typed copy of a sermon by the pastor, the Rev. Willie White Jr., who even has a grabber tool he uses to hand the sermon to members. Members leave an offering, and White says a quick prayer with the members, who stay in their vehicles. Members also can watch White deliver his sermons on the church’s Facebook page.
Johns Chapel AME plans to hold its drive-thru outdoor service on Easter at 10:45 a.m.
The church even issued a challenge to get 100 children to post videos of Easter speeches. Parents and their children are encouraged to collaborate on speeches and then download their videos.
White said members miss gathering together for fellowship but have responded positively to the drive-thru church. And White admits he too has had a difficult time with the adjustment.
“I’m an up-close, personal preacher,” he said. “I like to hug, and I like to shake hands; I like to talk to people. ...
“I just can’t wait when God gets through moving through the land, lifts this fire up off of us. Our members, as well as the pastor, we can’t wait to come together one more time. So, we are excited about it. We just shifted the method, but the message is still Jesus.”
Some churches, such as Christian Home Church of Christ in Wicksburg, have held drive-in services with members remaining in their vehicles, listening to the sermon via a radio transmitter.
Christian Home will have its drive-in Easter service at 10 a.m.
Calvary Baptist Church in Dothan also plans to hold an Easter drive-in service in its parking lot with the service livestreamed on social media for those who can’t attend.
Harvest Church in Dothan had planned an Easter drive-in service but has postponed it due to the threat of thunderstorms. Instead, members are being asked to worship together online.
Communion at home
First Methodist Church in Dothan has hosted online services all week leading up to Easter, including a Maundy Thursday Holy Communion service at home. Worshippers watching the service were asked to have grape juice and bread or crackers on hand at home.
St. Columba Catholic Church has also held its Holy Week services online and will celebrate Mass on Easter morning via its website and social media.
And despite the distance between church members these days, White and Rutland said the pandemic has reminded Christians what is really important.
“I think it’s going to be an opportunity for us to re-evaluate the way we do everything — ask ourselves the question, ‘What is most important?’” Rutland said. “The church is not a building. The church is disciples of Jesus Christ going out and telling other people about him. It’s not about coming to a physical building every week. It’s really about living your life out in the community and sharing the good news with other people.”