US governors and health officials have widely urged residents to avoid gathering in large numbers, which would shut down schools, businesses and churches.
COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus has killed more than 16,000 people in the United States and infected more than 450,000 people, authorities predict that the worst will come.
Major American religious institutions, including Roman Catholic dioceses and Protestant churches, have found alternatives to safely celebrate the holiest day on the Christian calendar.
The 2,200 members of Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, South Carolina, are turning to technology.
Reverend Jim Cawthon, 46, said he expected hundreds of people to spend Easter services in their cars in the parking lot of the mega church, watching the proceedings on large outdoor screens and listening its broadcast on local radio.
More will likely watch online, which Cawthon says should be easier, as the church recently upgraded its video and Internet systems.
“Just before it all went crazy, we were already settled in,” said Cawthon. “It is all about the cross and the celebration of Easter even in the event of a pandemic. “
Some older adults in retirement communities celebrate Holy Week by broadcasting music and video services. Some communities hold contests, asking residents to decorate golf carts for Easter and leave them parked outside to judge, instead of holding annual Easter parades with golf carts.
Curtis James, a young pastor at Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, imagined the idea of having a safe Easter egg hunt for kids with the online video game Minecraft. Other churches joined the project because it drew national attention.
The Home Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has held an Easter service at sunrise for almost 250 years, even surviving the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, as well as the two World Wars. But for the pandemic, the service is canceled and will be replaced by an online and local broadcasting service with just a preacher and a few members of the choir and group providing music.
A handful of churches have resisted social distancing rules aimed at slowing the spread of the disease and plan to continue their services on Sunday, with some pastors providing divine protection against the disease.
Most Catholic Dioceses in the United States have closed all worship services in person.
Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Diocese of Los Angeles has written to priests and parishioners across the country online to stand firm.
“Future generations will remember this as the long Lent of 2020, a time when illness and death suddenly clouded the whole earth,” he wrote, referring to the 40 days before Easter. “This holy week will be different. Our churches can be closed but Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not chained. “
In Columbus, Georgia, St. Anne’s Catholic Church has found a unique way to fill its pews for Easter Sunday.
More than 650 parishioners from 1,500 congregation members have sent photos of themselves that the priests have stuck on the benches, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“Now we look and see faces,” Pastor Robert Schlageter told the newspaper.
Most United Methodist churches plan to close their doors and broadcast services on social media.
Allen Newton, assistant district superintendent at the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Foundation, which oversees 569 churches, said in media interviews that he was disappointed.
“Preaching Easter Sunday is the high point of the year for a pastor,” he told the Tennessean newspaper. “Not being able to do this weighs on us.”
Rich McKay’s report in Atlanta; Editing by Scott Malone and Rosalba O’Brien
Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.