By Jasmine Willis
Local churches are finding their own way to gather during these dark times.
Holy Week is approaching in the midst of this storm. The Covid-19 has made it impossible for anyone to gather in their places of worship due to the PAUSE Law.
This local reporter contacted many of our pastors to see how they will each handle providing Easter Service for their congregations during social distancing.
Dansville Foursquare Church Pastor Derek Wadsworth said Holy Week will be different for all of them this year.
“We have taken on the Dansville Food Pantry since this whole thing happened. The people who are normally in charge are elderly, and we did not want them to be put at risk. We have gone from 50 people needing help to about 123 people needing to use the food pantry every Wednesday. We have Bible Study on Wednesday evenings as well. We want to be able to share with the community. We load the groceries into bags, bring them out into the parking lot, and they put them in the trunks of the cars,” he said. “For Easter week we had someone make bags of candy to put in the grocery bags to bless people this Wednesday. We have been getting a lot of donations from people in the community for the food pantry as well. We have always had a great partnership with the food pantry. We are glad to be able to help them in this time.”
Wadsworth said Easter Service will be online with devotions, worship music, and communion.
“We have created some devotions for people to follow online. We will show them how to share communion with us from their homes. We have different worship teams coming in to share music with us. We are doing the sermon online as usual. We thought of doing the drive-in service as other churches have talked about in the parking lot, but we decided not to do that. Our main goal is to keep everyone safe during this time.”
Wadsworth added Dansville Foursquare Church will be starting a Three Amigos Pastor Podcast on Friday at noon. Any questions you have for the three pastors can be asked at that time. It is an extra way to bring the community together and bring some peace to everyone spiritually. They will all be social distancing and have a camera on each of them in different parts of the room.
Katrina Macaluso, Rev. J. Eric Thompson’s wife said Holy Week will be online to comply with the social distancing laws. J. Eric Thompson, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and St. Paul Lutheran Church reverend will be doing Holy Week online as well.
“Eric is doing both churches now. We have been doing something all Holy Week. We have the Compline (night prayers) Monday through Wednesday at 8 p.m. We will do Maundy Thursday Service at 7 p.m. We will do the stations of the Cross for Good Friday at noon and our service at 7 p.m. Easter Service will be at 9 a.m. live at St. Paul’s and 10:30 a.m. live at St. Peter’s,” Macaluso said.
“We decided to keep doing the Cross Walk since it is important to so many people. We will have it all done prerecorded. We will have the video of the music, stations of the Cross, and readings available online at noon on Good Friday. DAMA did it all the time at Church Park and we always had a very good turnout. We came up with the idea to do it this year in order to keep it going even though we need to social distance,” Macaluso said.
DAMA is a Dansville Ministry Group that encompasses the entire local church community. This Good Friday the music will be from Stone Rose, artwork from Monastery Icons, and service from Thompson.
“Church will continue despite the Covid-19 pause. As Gov. Cuomo has stated, we may be socially distanced, but we remain spiritually connected. This is a great opportunity for the church to discover news ways to connect that were not normally familiar to us. So it follows that St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and St.Paul’s Lutheran Church are holding a full complement of Holy Week and Easter Services that can be easily accessed,” Thompson said. “They can go to their Facebook pages and websites. Though our custom of celebrating regular feasts must wait until the state of emergency is over, we are still able to feast daily on the Word of God through prayer and Bible Study. How fortunate we are also to remain digitally connected to each other, an option not available to pandemics in the past. We welcome everyone to attend virtuously by attending virtually and look forward to returning to in-person worship when it is responsible to do so.”
Wayland Redefined Church Pastor Nick Lincoln said he will have a drive-in service this Easter Sunday.
“We know a lot of people miss having a live church service. We may not be able to all be together right now, but this is the best we could come up with during this time. We will have everyone park in the driveway and stay in their cars. I will be on a stage I made in the lawn to give the sermon. We will have worship music and a sermon about the worthiness of Jesus, and why we all talk about this on Easter,” he said. “The message idea came from a song I heard by Chris Tomlin called Is He Worthy. It is about stepping back and asking those questions. The concept is to show why we celebrate this message every year. Why Jesus is so important to all of us in general. Why we feel it all in our hearts. Just to take it back to his life, death, and resurrection. I want to talk about his signs, miracles and wonders. The life he gave all of us to live through his Word.”
Lincoln has mixed emotions about doing his sermons online during the social distancing.
“I have mixed emotions about this whole thing. I love having everyone in my home. Every season is different. With my computer background I didn’t find it hard to do all my sermons online. I am just making the most out of the season I am in now. I know there will be a season when we are all back together again,” he said.
Redefined Church does offer a Bible Study on Revelations every Thursday night at 6:30p.m. via zoom.
Manilla Owen, Dansville United Methodist Church and Sparta United Methodist Church pastor said she wanted her congregations to watch Jesus Show from Sights and Sounds Theater to gear up for Holy Week. The Pennsylvania Sights and Sounds Theater does a show called Jesus every year. Due to the Covid-19 they are doing it online. People are encouraged to go watch it as it is the entire story of Jesus. Owen said she watched it in person last year and it was amazing.
“I want everyone to watch the Jesus Show from Sights and Sounds Theater. I watched it live last year in Pennsylvania and it was fantastic. They were going to do it in the theater, but due to this social distancing they couldn’t. I want people to watch it online since it is the entire story of Jesus,” she said. “I am doing the 10 a.m. prayer service on Easter Sunday for anyone who needs prayers. We are doing our live prayers and sermons at 11 a.m. since this all happened. The message we got from the church suggested we hold off on the Easter Service until we can all get together again, and that will be our big celebration. That is when we should give the Easter Service when we can all be together again and have a nice community dinner afterwards to celebrate.”
Owen said in the past Holy Week has always been a time to gather, and she misses being able to gather with all of her congregations.
“It is a time for us all to get together. People will do this when they gather for dinner and to play Bingo. It is the same for us in the church. We miss those relationships we have made. It has been lonely since this all happened,” she said. “Some are talking about how it is a mixed blessing. It is good to take care of some things you wouldn’t normally get to. We are all getting things done around the house, spring cleaning, getting huge donations out to Good Will and Salvation Army, and most of all it’s a spiritual cleanse within our lives. We will all get to ask ourselves what really makes us happy, and work on what to do when this is all over. This is really a huge pause within our lives.”
Owen mentioned the Respite Program is closed for now, but there are hopes of bringing it back stronger in the near future.
You can visit your local churches online for Holy Week at https://www.facebook.com/weareredefinedchurch/, https://www.facebook.com/stpaulsdansville/, https://www.facebook.com/stpetesdansville/, https://www.facebook.com/DansvilleFoursquare/, https://www.facebook.com/DvilleUMC/, https://www.facebook.com/SpartaCenterUMC/