The bell tolls for all: Local churches finding creative ways for Easter worship
Easter is supposed to be a day for families and congregations to gather and rejoice in Christianity’s most important holiday.
Instead, in-person church services have been stopped and families have been shut in to avoid the spread of COVID-19. That does not mean celebrating Easter is an impossibility, as churches and communities have gotten creative to ensure they can find a way to worship.
A survey from WalletHub has shown 77 percent of people believe churches should not be open during the pandemic, but 56 percent said they would attend services if they were open. So, whether it is through live streaming online or drive-up sacraments, churches have found options for people to continue to come together on Easter.
This thinking led John Bechen, a member of the Mitchell chapter of the Knights of Columbus, to an idea to bring all Christians together, regardless of denomination. A member of St. Charles Catholic Church in Artesian, Bechen has encouraged all churches to ring their bells in unison across South Dakota at 10 a.m. on Easter as a sign of solidarity amongst Christians.
“The bell rings the same for everybody,” Brechen said. “Whether you’re Protestant or Catholic, it’s just a reminder that the church is out there for you.”
Mitchell Wesleyan Church does not have bells, or it would surely participate, according to discipleship pastor Bryan Pohlen. Instead, the church has come up with an alternative for its Easter services.
Not only will the church be aired on local radio on 103.5 FM at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, but it received permission from the city of Mitchell to hold a drive-up service in the parking lot of the Cadwell Sports Complex.
An altar will be constructed on a scaffold and parishioners can drive up to observe the service in their vehicles for what the church has dubbed, “Come as you are, but stay in your car.”
“We had so many people that said they want to get together, but we had to be prudent,” Pohlen said. “... Everybody says to think outside the box, but we’ve gotten to the point where there is no box. We just need to do what we can do to minister to people.”
Most churches, like Mitchell’s First United Methodist Church, have set up live stream services , with some of the posting daily sermons or prayers. The church also provided drive-up sacraments for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, while Zion Lutheran Church currently has appointment-only sacraments.
Zion Lutheran is also allowing members to set up appointments to pick up hymnals to use during the web services in an attempt to keep the experience as close to normal as possible despite observing from the couch rather than a church pew.
“The bulletin is online for the full service,” said Thomas Brown, senior pastor at Zion Lutheran Church. “You can follow along, sing along and we encourage people to participate as if they are in church service. Treat it with the same seriousness and reverence as if you were sitting in church with us.”