Empty pews, full hearts: Easter celebrations continue despite virus


Pews in church sanctuaries may be empty on Good Friday and Easter Sunday but their altars are active:  livestreaming services and hosting drive-in sermons and drive-thru confession.

3Circle Church Pastor Chris Bell has been asked how it feels to “not have Easter.” He said Easter was never cancelled.

“Nothing can stop us from celebrating the resurrection of Christ, the single greatest event in history,” Bell said. “Of course, it will look quite different this year. Our Easter Sunday gatherings will be fully online.”  

Bell added, “I would say to our community to take this situation one day at a time. God created us to live life a day at a time.  We simply cannot handle the weight of using today’s strength to worry about tomorrows possible troubles.  Jesus told us to not worry.  The book of Lamentations tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning.  If we will trust God each day, we will have the grace and strength we need to get through this.”

Leaders at First Baptist Church of Gulf Shores, received permission from the state to host a drive-in worship service. Reserve a spot for the services held, Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12, online at https://www.fbcgulf.com/driveinworship.

Senior Pastor Dr. Lawrence H. Phipps said changing their method of worship has taught staff and parishioners alike to thrive in times of trouble. 

“They did not teach COVID-19 in seminary,” he said. “Difficulties can place us in survival mode. First Baptist Gulf Shores is discovering how to thrive, not just survive. Worship and Bible study comes to homes via Facebook or the website at fbcgulf.com. April 5 recorded almost 5,000 views.” 

At St. Andrews by the Sea the congregation will also celebrate Easter online and members have been asked to submit a video greeting that will be aired during the traditional “Hallelujah Chrous.”

During these unprecedented times of isolation, many churches are also reaching out to the community and drawing closer.

“It has been an especially poignant Lenten season.  Traditionally this is a time when we reflect on human frailty and mortality; how striking to do so in the shadow of COVID-19. Even as the crisis prevents us from worshipping in one place, our church family has drawn closer together. Staff and lay volunteers have been telephoning households to ask, ‘How are you doing?  What do you need?  How may we keep you in our prayers?’,” said St. Andrews by the Sea senior pastor Larry Wood.

“The Christian faith is not an escape from reality.  It has always looked death square in the face and has proclaimed that God is much greater.  Like Christians in many other eras, we will come together as the risen Body of Christ and discover the truth of that promise,” Wood said. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us," wrote the Apostle Paul.  In other words, as the old preacher said, it's Friday -- but Sunday's coming,” Wood said.