COVID-19: Churches preparing for an exceptional Easter

Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson
Photo: LWF/A. Danielsson

Exceptional circumstances require unusual approaches to congregational life

(LWI) – Hope and sorrow lie close together these days. This becomes very clear when speaking to pastors from different member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) about their ministry. Despite the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, they are preparing for the coming Easter and maintaining congregational life with great commitment and personal dedication.

A cheerful voice and a creative idea for an Easter service come from Rev. Lise Palstrøm (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark). Congregations are not permitted to gather in the church, so they came up with an alternative that respects the regulations and still allows the service to take place.

“We will have a drive-in Easter service on the local sports green,” she announces. So, with the permission of the Danish Ministry of Health, up to forty cars will gather there. “We expect mostly families to come. They will only be allowed to open the window on the left side of the car – to listen to the loudspeakers and to sing along,” Palstrøm explains. “And we have asked them in advance to bring their bread and wine for the Holy Communion.”

How to celebrate worship services under the given circumstances has also been discussed in the Lutheran Church in Liberia, says Rev. Peter Logan. In Liberia, quarantine measures are in place in two of the fifteen counties, including the capital city Monrovia.

“We are ministering to the spiritual and psychological needs of our members through social media, text messages, phone calls, and radio programs,” Logan says. Also, families living in areas under quarantine are encouraged to have daily family devotion. Pastors send daily scriptural texts to members for this purpose.

Keeping in touch with members and providing liturgies and other material for worshipping at home is a priority for Rev. Annette Kalettka (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony) as well. “In the spirit of the priesthood of all believers, we encourage people to celebrate Agape at home.” Also, prayer requests can be sent to the pastors who will bring them before God during a service on Good Friday.

As a sign of encouragement and connectedness between generations, “we have invited children to prepare pictures of Easter symbols and greetings, and to deposit them in the mailboxes of nursing and old age homes,” says Kalettka.

Because not everyone can communicate through digital channels, “our council lay leaders are assigned about 10-12 people to call and check on weekly,” says Rev. Rebecca Sheridan (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) about the model practiced in her congregation. “Many people are appreciative of this support of the church.”

Anxiety, uncertainty, and worries about the economic and social impact of the pandemic lead to high demand for counseling, Rev. Petra Röhrs (Northeastern Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa - NELCSA) and her fellow pastors in Australia and the USA have experienced. They are spending long hours on the telephone, lending an ear to people in despair.

Contemplating the meaning of life under exceptional circumstances, this Lent has “been an opportunity to deepen our faith,” says Rev. Miguel Ángel Nunez (Lutheran Church in Chile). “My preparations for Easter are very different from previous years. I believe that due to being quarantined, the Lenten season has been much more intense.”

 

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