With Easter Sunday days away, local churches are having to decide when and if they plan to hold a special service.
Canvas Church in Lenoir City will continue to stream services online. The church has been broadcasting through its website and various forms of social media in what the Rev. Nick Rains, pastor, is calling an interactive service.
During the service, those watching can interact through a chat room and request live prayer. Rains said the approach is a way to reach people who can’t attend church, and there are plans to implement some aspects once congregations are allowed to attend in person.
“We’ve looked at several different options of trying to see if there’s some kind of alternative service that we can pull off, but at the end of the day we want to be sensitive to our community and we will work within the guidelines that our governor and mayor set,” Rains said.
Employing that strategy on Easter Sunday will offer a different feel.
“We’re just going to take the message and the Gospel to them in their living rooms,” Rains said. “So if they want to stay in their pajamas and celebrate the resurrection, go for it. ... Obviously, it will be something different than what we normally do. We’ll be challenging some people to do some sacraments on that Friday as part of a devotional and then that Sunday morning we’ll be really more than anything just focused around celebration, worshipping and teaching about the resurrection.
“We’re going to be kind of walking people through communion in their homes on Friday and then our Sunday morning service we’ve kind of made that as streamlined as possible, just due to the circumstances,” he added. “We’ll put out more of a service centered around celebration on that Sunday morning.”
Celebrating is important despite not being in a typical Easter service setting, he said.
“From the teachings of Isaiah all the way to the teachings of Jesus we see the discussion of this coming new kingdom that would conquer death,” Rains said. “To me the very center of the Christian word is the resurrection and I think it’s important. It’s probably especially in the midst of something like this where we’re surrounded by the news, we’re surrounded by disease and death ... that’s all we’re hearing. I think in the midst of that it’s important for us to believe and have hope very differently than some. I think it’s very important for us to not lose that message even if we’re having to declare it different. That there is still hope, there is still newness of life and no matter what’s going on in the world around us that hasn’t changed.”
North Lenoir Church of God in Lenoir City plans to have its own streamed service. The church has exclusively gone online for three weeks.
“Ours is we’re going to do an online communion service on Good Friday, 7 p.m., and then we will have Easter celebration online next Sunday at 10:30 (a.m.),” the Rev. David Bandy, pastor, said.
The church will celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter despite not meeting in person because “I feel like our people want to celebrate on Easter.”
“All Christians virtually are always celebrating the risen Lord every time we meet, but we want to just continue to move forward and try to keep things as normal as possible,” Bandy said. “... When we get the go-ahead to meet back again, we are planning a big celebration and we’re looking forward to that. I guess the heart of us continuing to have service on Easter is to celebrate in the meantime and not cease to praise the Lord.”
Blairland Baptist Church in Loudon will broadcast its service at 11 a.m. Sunday on 96.1 FM. Jeff Harris, director of student ministries, said for now the plan is to have a regular service and then hold something special for Christ’s resurrection at a later date.
“Maybe we’ll try to do something special later when we can meet together again to just still have some sort of a Easter service-type celebrate the resurrection or something, but right now we’ll just have a standard service singing worship songs and then he (the Rev. Jon Henson) will bring up a message,” Harris said. “... We’re just going to wait and see when it’s lifted. I mean right now we’re pretty much in it I think the president has said until April 30. What we don’t want to do is put a date out there and then have to change it. So it’s just suspended indefinitely until the country kind of can come back together and we’re given the go-ahead to start meeting in mass groups again.”
While not holding a special service for Easter is disappointing, Harris understands.
“It’s very disappointing and it’s something that you would never think would happen,” Harris said. “You’d think Easter Sunday — that’s usually when churches are at maximum capacity, but that’s just not where we are today. We’re in the middle of this pandemic and trying to obey the guidelines put down by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and our governor, so that’s where we’re at. The church is not the building, the church is the people. So we’re still trying to minister to our community in different ways, using different methods and different avenues.
“We will celebrate the resurrection, but it just won’t be on Easter Sunday,” he added. “It will be a time where we all get back together. We will celebrate that as a church.”