Easter without church: Resurrection hope amidst uncertainty

Dressing up in Easter outfits, searching for colored eggs and jelly beans, eating a feast of ham and all the trimmings with family and attending church on Resurrection Sunday: That may be what a typical Easter looks like, but in a season of stay-at-home orders to stem the coronavirus pandemic, nothing is the same.

But this can be a time to reflect on the pain and suffering of Christ, leading to the joyous news of his resurrection and our salvation. Perhaps a time to slow down, be grateful for what we do have and lend a helping hand to those around us. Even though churches are closed and this Easter may lack the fellowship of believers gathered together, people can still celebrate the miracle of the risen Jesus and pursue the truth of God.

“In this very surreal time, when all our days and weeks seem to be blurring together, this Holy Week is a great time to be purposeful in setting apart our time to focus on the Lord,” Rev. Dr. D. Dean Weaver ’86, interim Grove City College chaplain, said.

For centuries, the church has met together for regular worship, holidays and moments of grief, but now this privilege is on hold. “While we are all grieving the loss of being able to be together, we are reminded at a time like this, that the church is not a building but the people of God,” Weaver said.

The reminders of Christ’s death and resurrection can be remembered at home. “Just because we cannot attend church as we would like does not mean that we cannot have the church service help us to orient our thinking and our worship,” Dr. Carl Trueman, professor of Biblical and Religious Studies at Grove City College and an ordained minister, said. “Christians can be confident that salvation does not ultimately depend on being physically present in church, even though that is essential in the long run to healthy Christian discipleship,” he said.

Some churches will be meeting online, livestreaming services like Weaver’s Memorial Park church, or trying a social distanced “drive-in” type service. “However it may look, the focus will be on a form of gathering of God’s people to worship the resurrected Christ,” Weaver said.

Trueman and Weaver acknowledge that is not as good as actually being present and interacting with people. But this time could be one to focus on those who feel this loneliness regularly. “This might be a time to reflect on the situation of those for whom church attendance is impossible, whether because of persecution or simply the circumstances of life, and to give thanks that for us this situation is temporary, even as we pray for those less fortunate,” Trueman said.

What else can we do to celebrate this time where we remember Christ’s death and resurrection? “Everyone can gather either together online or around their kitchen table for worship,” Weaver said. Read scripture, pray and sing. “I suggest Googling the new Getty hymn ‘Christ, Our Hope in Life and Death’ and listen to that. Then play it again and sing along,” Weaver said.

The song reflects on the truth that the only hope and only certainty both in life and death is that through Christ, believers have eternal life, regardless of what may happen on this earth. “Who holds our faith when fears arise? Who stands above the stormy trial? Who sends the waves that bring us nigh unto the shore, the rock of Christ?” Christ alone.

"The pandemic has certainly changed the way in which we celebrate Easter – livestreaming, virtual services, no Easter breakfast at church – but, if anything, I think it has shed light on the true meaning of Easter for many people,” Dr. Seulgi Byun, chair and associate professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, said. “Why? Because the cross reminds us that resurrection comes through death, that through the cross God has vanquished and swallowed up death forever. The stench of death is all around us, but that’s what makes resurrection hope so much sweeter."

Easter without church: Resurrection hope amidst uncertainty

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