Churches celebrate Easter unlike any other, share hope

April 15, 2020
Hubbard UMC created a "resurrection butterfly" for Easter Sunday.

By: Christa Meland

Churches might have been empty on Easter, but the tomb was empty too—and COVID-19 didn’t stop United Methodists across Minnesota from celebrating Christ’s resurrection through technology and drive-in worship services, and by blessing their communities. Together, we demonstrated that Easter was not canceled and remembered that love and hope triumph over sin and death.

Many churches reported virtual attendance significantly surpassing their historic in-person Easter Sunday worship and found ways to help people experience joy even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. View Easter photos from various churches here (and share one of yours on our Facebook post or via email, along with a brief description, so we can add it).

Hubbard UMC created a “resurrection butterfly” that made its debut in front of the church building on Easter Sunday. The butterfly, created out of plywood and then painted with intricate details, has a 16-foot wing span. Members were invited to take photos with the butterfly (one at a time) and to share how they are experiencing Christ in this season. One person talked about seeing hope through a crack in the ice, noting that even though it’s cold, the crack means spring is coming. Another talked about eagerly awaiting a revival that will take place when the pandemic is over and people flood back to churches.

“As there are many members in our church who appreciate art, I thought the butterfly would be a wonderful visual representation of Christ who sets us free from so many things that weigh us down,” said Rev. Lauren Hauger. “When we look upon the butterfly, what really speaks to our church is the one simple truth that through God’s love, we are set free. It is simply to let people know that we see their struggles, and they are not alone. God is with them!” 

Some churches found meaningful ways to include people from within their congregations in Easter Sunday worship. For example, Aldersgate UMC in St. Louis Park had a segment with members proclaiming “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!” and wishing each other a happy Easter. Park UMC in Brainerd featured members in various segments of worship, including the greeting, songs, and a collective recitation of the Apostle’s Creed.

Epworth UMC in Minneapolis affixed photos of members to the pews in the sanctuary on Easter.

Meanwhile, Epworth UMC in Minneapolis affixed photos of members to the pews in the sanctuary on Easter as a reminder that they remain connected while physically apart.

New City Church in Minneapolis created an Easter video—“Wake up with New City Church!”—featuring a diverse group of people from its faith community dancing with abandon and sharing hopeful messages about God.

“All of the time, New City talks about the Incarnation…and that if we really want to know about God, it can’t just be an idea—it has to be an embodied practice,” said Rev. Tyler Sit. “Dance is one of the ways that God made us with a body! We’re not just floating heads that talk on Zoom calls all day. This is an especially important concept in multiethnic spaces, because we have to acknowledge that some bodies are more often celebrated (like young, fit, white bodies) and other bodies are more often ignored or looked down upon (like old, disabled, or bodies of color). We felt like putting together this dance video would inspire an embodied joy that reflects the hope of Easter.”

Other churches opted to do “drive-up worship” where people gathered in the church parking lot and listened and participated from inside of their vehicles.
A snowstorm didn't stop a drive-in church service broadcast on the radio and online at Crossroads Church in Lakeville.

Multi-campus Crossroads Church did a drive-in service at its Lakeville campus. People in each vehicle received a sterilized bulletin and pre-packaged elements as they arrived. Revs. Paul and Deb Marzahn led worship from a stage outside the church building as snow swirled around them, and people could choose to simply listen through the church sound system from inside their vehicles, hear the service broadcast on an FM radio station, or stream from YouTube or Facebook (either from devices inside their vehicles or at home). In total, 220 people gathered in vehicles in the parking lot, and more than 700 devices streamed worship.

“The key word is hope,” said Paul Marzahn, who noted that the church is planning another drive-in service on Mother’s Day. “People are feeling fear right now, a real sense of discouragement. The resurrection gives us hope for the present, hope for eternity.”

Rev. Heather Klason, who serves Herman UMC and Bethel Lutheran Church, also led a drive-up worship service in a school parking lot. A highlight for her was sharing in a chorus of honking at the end.

Even in this season of social distancing, some churches found unique ways to bless their community on Easter Sunday. For example, Fairmount Avenue UMC in St. Paul had a (gloved and masked) Easter bunny hide eggs in the yards of church families and neighbors wanting to participate in an egg hunt. Rev. Shawna Horn said the church also did a baptism and welcomed four new people in virtual Easter worship, making for a different but still joy-filled Easter. 

First UMC of Redwood Falls, meanwhile, had a drive-through breakfast catered by its local Country Kitchen. People could pick up a delicious meal curb-side outside of the church building, and Country Kitchen donated 50 bags of food to distribute to church neighbors. 

On Sunday, Minnesota United Methodist churches demonstrated through both word and action that we are indeed Easter people. As the coronavirus pandemic grips the world and surrounds us with fear uncertainty, we know the power and promise of the resurrection—and so we celebrate Jesus’ victory with faith, hope, and the anticipation of what is to come. Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed. Alleluia!

Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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