The novel coronavirus has slowed or stopped a number of activities, but not the celebration of one of the holiest days of the church calendar.
Easter services will go forward in Fulton County, albeit mostly in the form of live streaming online. Several area clergy members said their churches will turn to Facebook and YouTube to spread the religious holiday’s message of hope.
Christ United Methodist Church in Wauseon will live-stream its service from the church parsonage Sunday at 10:15 a.m. Pastor Mike Berne said it will also be seen later on INTV. He said, like the weekly service that is also live-streamed during this period of social distancing, Easter services will be seen by people outside of the church’s congregation.
“It’s neat that we’re reaching out to new people,” Pastor Berne said.
It’s the first time in his 41 years as a pastor that Easter service has not been celebrated as a church gathering. “It’s very different not to have a congregation,” he said.
Pastor Berne said Christ United Methodist Church is planning to hold its traditional Easter service on the first Sunday this year that people are again permitted to gather for worship. Activities will include a sunrise service and an Easter breakfast.
“It’s still important for us to do that, in the sense of bringing people together for the first time, making that something special as a church,” he said. “It will be kind of a resurrection of who we are as a society, but also the resurrection of Jesus.”
Because the Toledo Catholic diocese has suspended church services through May 3, St. Richard Catholic Church in Swanton will air private Good Friday and Easter services recorded by Fr. Eric Culler for his YouTube channel.
A priest for 12 years, Fr. Culler said no physical holiday service is a first for him. “No priest that I’ve talked to has ever experienced a similar thing. Very bizarre,” he said.
When life returns to some normalcy, he plans some special celebration he may link to Easter. Fr. Culler said it may be a Eucharistic procession in early June around the church grounds, connected to Corpus Christi.
“Faith is meant to be experienced directly… so that’s important to have that physical presence with each other,” he said.
For now, parishioners are acting very positively, Fr. Culler said. “They’ve encouraged me and encouraged each other. It’s very edifying to see that.”
Pastor Chuck Whitmire of Shiloh Christian Union Church in rural Delta said a live stream will be held for a 7 p.m. Maundy Thursday service, for which people at home are encouraged to prepare their own bread and wine. A Good Friday service will be held at 7 p.m., and an Easter resurrection celebration service Sunday at 9 a.m. All will be accessible through Facebook or YouTube.
It’s the first time during Pastor Whitmire’s 26 years as a clergyman that no physical Easter gathering will be held. “We all have to adjust. It’s not the ideal circumstance,” he said.
He said while the church’s weekly online service drew over 700 households last week, “Nothing takes the place of face-to-face.”
The first actual Sunday gathering after social distancing ceases will be a time of celebration and rejoicing, Pastor Whitmire said. In the meantime, “It’s a good time to reexamine our lives, consider what’s important in life,” he said. “There are some valuable things to learn from this situation.”
A Good Friday service at 7:30 p.m. and an Easter sunrise service at 7 a.m. and celebration service at 10 a.m. will be live-streamed from St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Archbold. Pastor Paul Reichert said the last time the 150-year-old church failed to hold Easter services was during the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.
“For many of our congregants, we have a higher percentage of seniors attending than the general population,” he said. “Our congregations are more at risk by gathering together.”
Streaming services is a poor substitute for a live gathering, but “we are realizing that is a sacrifice we are all making for the sake of those who are most vulnerable,” Pastor Reichert said.
He said the church is attempting to bridge the current distance to its members through emails, phone calls, and Facebook but “there’s a significant drop in being able to be socially connected. There is, I think, a deep loneliness, and we are doing our best to mitigate that.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.