Click to expand
For many Christians, Easter couldn’t be any stranger this year.
The holiday — which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is widely regarded as the most important in Christendom — is often celebrated by worshiping with fellow believers, spending time with family and participating in Easter-specific traditions, such as the commemoration of Holy Week.
© Jud Burkett / The Spectrum
The Stations of the Cross service, depicted in this Spectrum file photo, is one of several Holy Week celebrations, marking Good Friday and commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Palm Sunday kicks off the week of observance leading up to Easter.
Not so this year. As coronavirus rages worldwide, shutting down schools, businesses and churches, many believers are having to re-define what it means to celebrate a holiday about hope and joy.
The Spectrum spoke with local faith leaders about how they’re celebrating Easter and why Easter matters in a time of global crisis.
Remembering the resurrection
A number of local churches are using video technology to stream their Easter Sunday services. For instance, the Springs Church is streaming their Easter services via Facebook and YouTube; while Rev. Lee Montgomery of the Spirit of the Desert Episcopal Church Community said his congregation will meet over Zoom for Easter services.
Pastor Jimi Kestin of Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship said the sanctuary won’t be packed with people, but they’ll broadcast their services live from Facebook.
While he doesn’t have a problem with the word “Easter,” he said he prefers the term “Resurrection Sunday” because it emphasizes what’s most important to their worship.
Keep reading: Utah’s virtual checkpoint: Everything you need to know about the new travel declaration order
“Jesus was not resuscitated, he was resurrected,” Kestlin said. “Resurrection Sunday is not only the most joyous day of our year, but it’s the most significant in human history.”
Ralph Atkin, Communication Council co-director in the St. George area for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, agreed that the resurrection is the most important aspect of Easter.
He also said some Latter-day Saints will keep up their family connections on Easter through Facetime and other internet resources. Easter is very important in Christendom, he said, and he wants to make sure his children and grandchildren know it’s important to him, too.
“Whether you believe or not, (the resurrection) was a gift given to everyone,” Atkin said.
Carole Drake, pastoral assistant at Saint George Catholic Church, said many of their services have already been streaming on Facebook before being posted to Youtube, which is how they’ll handle this year’s Easter services, as well.
Others are reading: ‘Big Five’ national parks in Utah are all temporarily closed due to COVID-19
However, she’s felt the sting of being unable to meet with her fellow congregants in-person.
“(Easter is) the most important celebration that we have during our church year, so not being able to celebrate that in the full session… is something that’s very difficult for us to come to accept right now,” she said.
Hope for the future
Despite the challenges of being physically separated during the Easter season, many Christian faithful are taking strength from the holiday’s message of hope.
Kestlin said Easter matters during a time of global emergency because it reminds people that their life and future should be built on Jesus. Many people who had little to no faith before the pandemic have been reaching out to a higher power during the crisis, he said, searching for something that’s certain as their lives turn upside down.
“We have an opportunity as Christians to demonstrate that these kinds of world-shaking disruptions do not disrupt us,” Kestlin said. “What this country and this world needs more than anything right now is hope and something that can be relied upon no matter what, and quite frankly and honestly, the answer to that is Jesus.”
Montgomery said the most important aspect of Easter is Christ’s resurrection, which brings with it the hope of resurrection for mankind.
And during the coronavirus pandemic, “I think it’s especially important to give people hope, to offer something that transcends the terrible times that we’re going through,” Montgomery said. “And the message of Easter is purely a message of hope.”
Atkin said Easter matters during the coronavirus outbreak because it allows people to concentrate on significant spiritual, eternal principles, such as why Christ came to Earth and died for all mankind.
“When we’re suffering this pandemic… let’s not forget what the really important thing is, which has to do with remembering the Savior and his great sacrifices,” Atkin said.
Drake added that being unable to physically meet with her Catholic community has been a “tremendous sacrifice,” but Easter gives her hope for better days ahead.
“At some point, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we will witness a resurrection of new life through this pandemic, which is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday with Christ resurrecting from the dead 2000 years ago,” she said.
Kaitlyn Bancroft reports on faith, health, education, crime and under-served communities for The Spectrum & Daily News, a USA TODAY Network newsroom in St. George, Utah. You can reach her at KBancroft@thespectrum.com, or follow her on Twitter @katbancroft.
This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Celebrating Easter in the age of COVID-19