For the Christian faith, the Easter holiday is one of the most important of the year. Marking the death and resurrection of Jesus, Easter is typically celebrated over several days, beginning with Palm Sunday on the Sunday before Easter followed by Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
While the coronavirus pandemic prevented many faith communities from gathering last year, many local parishes are approaching the holiday in new ways this year in order to keep everyone safe while recognizing traditions.
“We’re doing Friday a little different,” said the Rev. Ramon McDonald, of First Church of Laurel. “Instead of a service, we will have a cross in the prayer garden so people can come all day and stand in the garden with the cross. There will be cards with Scriptures.”
McDonald will be able to offer the church’s traditional Easter sunrise service at 6:30 a.m.
“We will stand in the parking lot,” McDonald said. “Families can be together with social distancing between groups.”
Another service will be offered at 10 a.m. inside the sanctuary.
“We limit between 50 to 60 [people] to feel comfortable. We can have 100 and it would be all right,” said McDonald, as the sanctuary can hold 250 people.
Many of the church’s members, however, are more comfortable watching the services online, he said.
“We have had 300 to 400 people online,” McDonald said. “The people have good spirits. We meet about every night for either fellowship, Bible study or to pray.”
Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Laurel has also altered its Good Friday services by moving its Stations of the Cross sites outside, except for two that will be held inside in a ventilated room. Church staff also related each station’s events, that focus on Jesus’ last day on Earth, to more contemporary events.
“The stations are interactive, so everyone can respond in some way,” said the Rev. Stephanie Vader, Emmanuel UMC minister. “People can engage in the story.”
On Saturday night, a fire pit will be lit for people to stand by after visiting the stations or to just reflect on their own.
“A traditional Easter fire, you keep burning all night,” Vader said. “It is a high church kind of thing, like the Catholic church, but it is new for us to do it. We are not keeping the fire going all night.”
Two drive-in services will be held on Easter Sunday, one at 8 a.m. at Colesville United Methodist Church and one at 11:30 a.m. at Emmanuel. An online worship service will take place at 9 a.m.
“Our congregation is very conservative, so we are waiting to be back inside,” Vader said. “The highest value in all of this is to do no harm and keep everyone safe.”
The Morning Sun
She admits, however, a new concern for her.
“I’ve never paid so much attention to the weather in my life,” Vader said. “Weather always changes. You can’t make decisions too quick.”
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Laurel is offering in-person services on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. With seating limited to 25, tickets are required. In an email, the Rev. Connie Miller, Holy Trinity’s minister, said the 9 a.m. Easter service was already full, but another service would be added. All services would be livestreamed on the church’s YouTube channel, HTLC Laurel.
Both First Church of Laurel and Emmanuel UMC traditionally host breakfasts on Easter morning. Neither are planning to continue the tradition this year.
“Weddings, funerals, everything has been impacted by the pandemic,” McDonald said. “This is hard for me as I am getting ready to retire after 45 years in the ministry. I have three more months, until July 1. "
Vader, too, will be leaving this summer, as she has been reassigned to a church in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve tried to do as much as we can in person in a safe way,” Vader said. “I can’t wait to get to the point where we can hug each other. That will be nice.”