Editor’s Note: A listing of online Easter church services can be found Page 4 of this edition. We attempted to provide as many as possible, but if your church is not included we encourage you to visit the church website.
Typically, Easter draws one of the largest crowds to church, but amidst the coronavirus, most church buildings in Scott County and in Kentucky will be empty this Sunday.
It has now been almost a month since Gov. Andy Beshear suggested churches suspend in-person services, eventually issuing an executive order.
One of the state’s coronavirus hot spots was traced to a church revival where more than 50 people have been confirmed infected with COVID-19, and six have died. Churches bring together people of all ages, including the elderly and those with underlying physical issues, which the governor has explained is the basis for his executive order.
But Easter and the Passover are special times for church families, so the prospect of being unable to physically attend church at this time takes an emotional toll on many.
Mike Justice, pastor of the Georgetown Church of the Nazarene, openly struggled with the decision to suspend church services. Like many, the Church of the Nazarene now broadcasts its services online via Facebook and Youtube. This week, the church delivered sealed cups of grape juice with an unleavened cracker and candles as the church held online services for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter services on Sunday.
We asked Pastor Justice to share his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities presented by the suspension of in-person church services this Easter.
We are living in unprecedented, historic times. We are in the middle of a world-wide pandemic that has much of the world’s population in some form of isolation and not allowed to meet in groups larger than 10 people. And this week is Holy Week—the time between Palm Sunday and Easter.
During this week, we, as Christians, remember and reflect on God’s sacrifice of His Son, His love for everyone, and the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
It is a week where followers of Jesus experience a wide range of emotions from deep sadness to great joy and happiness. The week ends with the most important day of celebration in the Christian calendar—Easter! And celebrations tend to happen best when there is a crowd, and the larger the crowd, the bigger the celebration.
So, in this day of social distancing and being “healthy at home” for the sake of the health and livelihood of everyone, some pastors and congregations are having a huge moral dilemma around being able to worship as a community and follow the guidelines set out by our local, state, and federal governments.
In Scripture, the Apostle Paul gives us great advice in Romans 13, calling us to be mindful to “obey those who govern over us.”
For me, as a pastor and the spiritual leader of the congregation that I am responsible for, the decision is not an easy one, but one that I must make after much prayer, thought, and consultation with knowledgeable professionals. And, as much as I would love to meet together with my congregation in person this Sunday as we celebrate the most joyful day of the year for Christians, I think the most responsible thing I can do is to NOT worship as a congregation in person this year.
Thankfully, in our current times, we have some great options at our disposal—we can livestream our services or we can pre-record our services and upload them online which allows them to be viewed by virtually anyone at any time.
These options have enabled my church to enlarge our reach as we have had more people view our online services than have ever been in our building at any one time.
Pastors and churches have always said that the church is the people, not a building. And not meeting in person so everyone stays in and stays “healthy at home” gives us an opportunity to choose the people over the building.
It is my prayer that in this Easter season, may we all use this time to find ways to be the Church to the world around us while we help everyone to be “healthy at home”.
Mike Justice is the pastor of Georgetown Church of the Nazarene.