Churches celebrate Easter in new fashion
By Dawn Burleigh
For many Christians, modern Easter celebrations would not be complete without bonnets, bunnies and colored eggs, but this year it will be celebrated differently as the county, with the rest of the world, practices physical distancing while attempting to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
As fun as those components can be, Christianity is at the heart of Easter, which is the most important date on the Christian religious calendar. Easter Sunday marks the culmination of events that shaped the beliefs and teachings of an entire faith.
Christian leaders of faith have faced the challenge during the Stay at Home orders to continue connecting with their congregations and connecting with those hungry for hope and the word of God.
For Orange Church of God, 1911 16th Street in Orange, services will be in the parking lot so families can stay in their cars, sit on the back of the truck, or set up lawn chairs, all while staying six feet apart.
“We are going to have a parking lot party,” Orange Church of God Lead Pastor Demetrius Moffett said. “It is a very special day in the Christian community, and it should not be forgotten. People can wear their masks and gloves while staying in their cars or sit on the back of their trucks. Everyone is welcome.”
Orange First Church of the Nazarene is familiar with streaming it’s service but now includes YouTube Live as well for streaming.
“My Challenge to the congregation was to still invite people to join and be a part of the service,” Orange First Church of the Nazarene Pastor Brad McKenzie said. “There are people who might not normally go to church or with the difficulty of today or only attend on Easter.”
McKenzie said the Sunday morning service will not the traditional Easter service.
“We want to keep it upbeat and positive,” McKenzie said. “We understand it is hard to stay engaged when you are not physically at church.”
Easter marks the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which Christians believe occurred within days of his crucifixion and burial. The New Testament indicates that the Resurrection of Jesus is one of the chief tenets of the Christian faith and established Jesus as the Son of God. Easter is an example that God will righteously judge the world by sacrificing His son for the sins of others. And any person who chooses to follow Jesus receives everlasting life thanks to Christ’s Resurrection.
“Truth is most people in the world has quoted God in some form or fashion,” Moffett said. “Some say he is still angry, still in control. We are facing something more deadly than coronavirus and that is a lifestyle of sin.”
Easter is linked to the Jewish celebration of Passover due to its proximity on the calendar and the fact that Jesus was Jewish. The Bible states that Jesus participated in the Passover meal during The Last Supper. At The Last Supper, Jesus identified the matzo (bread) and wine as his body and blood, soon to be sacrificed and shed. Christians believe The Last Supper marked the first transubstantiation or the turning of bread and wine into the actual substance of Christ’s body and blood. This also was the first celebration of the Eucharist and Holy Mass that would become another core component of the Christian faith.
“We will proclaim the message that is central,” McKenzie said. “This year the good news is He is risen. It is more important, that on the third day He raised. It is the most important in human history.”
Easter is a time of great celebration that is preceded by Lent, a weeklong period of reflection, prayer and repentance. The days immediately prior to Easter are commonly referred to as Holy Week. This encompasses Palm Sunday and lasts through Holy Thursday (the day of The Last Supper), Good Friday (when Jesus was crucified and placed in the tomb), and Holy Saturday (the 40-hour-long vigil that the followers of Jesus Christ held after his death and burial).
On Easter Sunday, four women, including Mary Magdalene, went to Christ’s tomb to anoint his body with spices and oils. They found the tomb was empty and were met with an angel who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead. A biblical account in John 20:14-16 indicates that Mary Magdalene was the first to speak with the risen Jesus. She mistakes Jesus for a gardener and says to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him, “Rabboni!” In regard to his apostles Simon Peter was the first to see the risen Christ.
Easter is a time of joy and celebration, and a great opportunity for Christians to immerse themselves in their faith, even if celebrated differently than traditional manners.
“It saddens me that we are not able to gather for liturgy,” Bishop Guillory said. “I hope that the community is able to join us through social media as our priests and I live stream our private Masses and other devotionals.”
In addition to Bishop Guillory, many priests of the diocese will also be live streaming Mass privately in their respective parishes during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday. Some of these can be found on the diocesan website at www.dioceseofbmt.org.
Orange Church of God, 1911 16th Street in Orange, will hold it’s parking lot service at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Orange First Church of the Nazarene, 3810 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, in Orange, will stream it’s service at 10:45 a.m. on Facebook and YouTube. The channel is Orange Naz Church.
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