“For many Christians, this will be the first Easter they celebrate at home,” said Pastor Bob Kadlicek of Bridgewater Church. “It will be strange. But it is not unprecedented.”
For the first 300 years of church history, there were almost no church buildings, Kadlecik explained. With Christianity illegal at times, people met in homes or outside. “So celebrating Easter at home is not a new problem; it is, in fact, a very old reality that many ancient Christians lived out,” Kadlecik said.
Rev. Arthur Jones, Priest-in-Charge of the Episcopal Churches in Montrose, New Milford and Susquehanna, echoed Kadlecik’s thoughts. “The vast majority of Christians consider Holy Week in general – and Easter Sunday in particular – to be the holiest time of the Christian calendar,” he said.
Pastor Will Hagenbuch of the Harford First Congregational UCC offered, “Like the first disciples, we are living in a confused, dangerous and sometimes lonely world. Yet through it all, our God is where God has always been—and that’s with us.”
In this time of social distancing, some local churches have moved to virtual services, while others utilized available technology prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
Bridgewater Church started an online service over one year ago, Kadlecik said. “Most people check out a church online before showing up in person. But now it is almost the only way we can ‘come together’ to worship God and learn from His Word,” he said.
Jones’ local parishes are offering virtual worship services every day via Facebook Live, with a combined Sunday worship service via Zoom conferencing, YouTube and Facebook Live.
And the Harford First Congregational UCC Facebook page includes Holy Week worship opportunities in addition to the regularly updated content.
To celebrate at home, Kadlecik and Jones both recommend reading Passion narratives, found in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke in the Bible. “As you read,it’s clear no one made it up and wrote it down later – because a made up story would have been less jumbled and confusing! I love how they are messy stories; just like different first-hand accounts of an event would be like today,” Kadlecik said.
He also advocated that those with small children could “act it out with them” instead of reading it. “Don’t think everything has to be so serious,” he advised. “The death of Jesus is serious. The resurrection is a joyful celebration. Your kids or grandkids will get a kick out of dad playing the part of Mary crying at the tomb. And it may help it come alive to them.”
Jones suggested watching the 2004 film “The Passion of Christ,” if all members of the family are of an appropriate age to view the movie.
And in this time of social distancing and uncertainty, the pastors offered up some additional thoughts:
Kadleicik said, “Some may wonder, ‘How can you believe in a God who has the power of eternal life, and yet kills or allows hundreds of thousands of people to be killed by this virus?’ That is a legitimate question. The coronavirus has already taken the lives of one of my friends, Linda Ford. Why? First, this is not a question only Christians have to answer. I know of no religion, including atheism, that has a fully satisfying answer to this question (Why do bad things happen to good people?). I think Christianity’s answer is the least bad of all the bad options. One of the things Easter teaches is that this world is not our home. This world reeks of death, evil and pain. There is a better world that awaits. And for my friend Linda Ford, death was not a punishment. Because she asked Jesus to pay for her sins and surrendered her life to God, I believe death for Linda was her reward. I look forward to celebrating the love and power of that God this Easter even more than the Easters of the past.”
Jones offered the Closing Blessing used in services at the Episcopal Parishes of Upper Susquehanna County:
“May God grant you the grace to never sell yourself short.
The grace to risk something big for something good.
The grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth;
and too small for anything but love. Amen.”