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A different kind of Easter: Local churches find ways to celebrate holiday while social distancing

By Staff | Apr 17, 2020

Asbury United Methodist Church was one of the many churches in Shepherdstown unable to celebrate Easter in person. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — For the first time in many of their histories, Shepherdstown’s churches were not able to celebrate Easter in their buildings.

While the typical Easter weekend features a number of services remembering the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, the governor’s Stay at Home Order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic forced churches to relocate their celebrations to the internet.

For Christ Reformed United Church of Christ, its Easter weekend commemorations were written out and shared on the church’s Facebook page. The church held its Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services this way, with YouTube links for congregants to sing the hymns for the services with.

“Again, this Sunday morning we are worshipping separately, and yet through the power of Christ we are indeed worshiping together,” said Rev. Gayle Bach-Watson to her congregants. “We are the Body of Christ, whether we are gathered or apart. God walks with us always, meeting us wherever we are, gathering us in, no matter where we are.”

Trinity Episcopal Church took a similar approach, by publishing the hymns, readings and sermon for its Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday services on its website. However, the church services were being led by The Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, which church members could join in hearing over the phone, Facebook Live or the Zoom videoconferencing app.

Trinity Episcopal Church's building remained empty on Sunday, as its members celebrated Easter in their homes. Tabitha Johnston

“How strange this Easter feels. How I will miss being with you, hearing the glorious Easter hymns, sharing communion. Yet, this is what we must do to keep each other well and safe. There is nothing more important ever,” said Rev. G.T. Schramm in a letter to his congregation.

According to Schramm, the church will continue to ring its bells at noon every day, to call the community to pray throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The church will also look forward to celebrating Easter together, once the governor’s Stay at Home Order is lifted.

“I have already begun to think, though, that we will have Easter music, Resurrection music when we can again get back together,” Schramm said. “How blessed we are to have each other, warm homes, plenty to eat. Be thankful today not only for the Resurrection of Jesus, but also for the many blessings showered upon each of us.”

For Covenant Baptist Church, although its Easter weekend services could not have congregants in attendance, its services were still held, via Facebook Live, YouTube and on its website. It also held one of its two Easter Sunday morning services in front of its building’s Concourse Entrance, which some congregants chose to attend as a drive-in service.

“It’s a delight to come to you once again on this Easter Sunday, even though, I’m sure, it doesn’t feel like Easter. It feels not like the kind of Easter that any of us thought we would have been celebrating this year,” said SBC Pastor Joel Rainey.” It feels more like Saturday than Sunday. Feels probably a little less like our disciples felt Sunday morning when they found the tomb empty, and a little more like those 39 hours between Jesus’ death and resurrection. There’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of those things we’re unsure about. And one of those is even when all of this ends.”

While the end of the COVID-19 pandemic may have kept Shepherdstown’s church buildings empty over the weekend, it failed to prevent local congregations from celebrating Easter weekend, in their homes and in their cars.