A year after the coronavirus pandemic forced many places of worship to celebrate Easter in a virtual setting, local churches with congregations large and small were able to open their doors Sunday for an in-person celebration of the risen Christ.
Most area churches have offered in-person services for several weeks as COVID-19 cases have steadily decreased, but celebrating Easter Sunday with an in-person worship service is particularly meaningful given the challenges of the last year.
Rev. Bryan Meadows addressed a full sanctuary Sunday at Huntsville United Methodist Church, and described for the congregation the difference between this Sunday and last Easter.
Last year, “I stood up here and looked directly at the camera,” to deliver the Easter sermon, Meadows said, adding that there were only about four other people in the church that day to ensure the online-only service ran smoothly.
“To be able to stand up here today and see this church full is a little taste of Heaven on earth,” he said.
Meadows also reflected on the herky-jerky nature of being able to host in-person services throughout the middle of the pandemic, and all of the unknowns surrounding returning to in-person worship.
For many local houses of worship, Sunday’s services capped a week of Holy Week commemorations including prayer walks; Maundy Thursday contemplations and readings; and sunrise services.
Activities such as the Holy Week Prayer Walk at Quincy United Methodist Church, and the “come and go” Good Friday prayer times at West Liberty United Methodist Church gave parishioners the opportunity for in-person reflection throughout Holy Week.
Social distancing and other COVID protocols including face coverings continue to be observed by many local churches during in-person worship. Additionally, most churches continue to stream Sunday services online, allowing members to worship in the manner they feel most comfortable.
Despite the fact that in-person services were so limited for a time, area churches played a big role in helping meet the needs of local residents, especially during the height of the economic downturn brought on by virus-related shutdowns. As Logan County unemployment skyrocketed last April to the highest in the state, churches were among the number of social-service and civic organizations that rallied to solicit donations to help feed people.
Multiple local churches have begun maintaining around-the-clock “blessings boxes” that allow folks to “give what they can, and take what they need.”
That Christ-like generosity of spirit was on display Sunday in the Huntsville UMC sanctuary as parishioners announced that 4,080 pounds — some two tons — of food had been raised by way of the church’s recently completed annual Tons of Love Food Drive.
Christians celebrated an empty tomb Sunday, but thanks in part to the steadfast diligence of local clergy and parishioners they didn’t have to leave the churches empty to do it