Easter services go forward for many observing safe at home in Freeport

FREEPORT — For Diane Sorn of Freeport, this Easter celebration will be emotionally hard this year as they cannot worship safely at a church gathering.

"It’s emotional not to celebrate Easter at my church, God willing, we all be together next year,” Sorn said.

She has been a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church her whole life. It is the church where she was baptized. It is the church she attends weekly to pray to her God, listen to her minister and share her faith with her fellow parishioners.

This year, she and her husband will follow the service online, safe in their home. She will pray, sing songs. She said she longs to return to her place of worship when the COVID-19 crisis passes.

“We are a church family, and while I miss being with my family, my church family is just as important,” Sorn said. “It’s heartbreaking that we cannot gather to worship at the church for Easter, but these are the sign of the times.”

Sorn said she has embraced the livestream services she has been a part of by Mark Winkelman, her pastor. She said she goes to the website to watch, but it is different.

“I watch, I participate and sing, and I still enjoy my church, but it is the greeting of peace from others I miss most. It is the shared smiles of faith that is comforting.”

The celebration of Easter at church has changed for many this year. Sorn said Holy Week is a time of emotion for her. The resurrection of Jesus is a signal to her of going from the darkness to light. It is this belief that carries her through the COVID-19 crisis.

“I will still celebrate,” she said. “This is a time of celebration.”

Winkelman said the story of Easter is that of hope to a place of joy.

“Easter is liberation to stay connected even during a moment of crisis,” Winkelman said. “Our congregation will gather differently this year, and we can worship digitally this year. Our faith connects us, and this year we will celebrate Easter online.”

Winkelman said the 9 a.m. online service is going to be interactive. Many people from the church have sent in videos to be included. Many readers will recite from the Bible from their homes. There will be something for children.

“I encourage people to get ready for church as they would if they were attending the service as we usually do, do the responses at home, be present with their God,” Winkelman said. “We will miss coming together at the same time. Easter is God’s work to offer peace, hope and eternal life.”

He adds, “Lent is the pause to slow down, to give us time to reflect, and why Jesus came to save us.”

Hank Fairman, pastor of St. John United Church of Christ, spent Thursday getting ready for his Maundy Thursday online service. He said he knows this year the celebration of Easter during a traditional service at the church is hard for many, but he said he wants people to remember that Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation for which, Christian religions are built.

“During this time of Lent and leading up to Easter, we have had a call tree to reach out to each member of our church twice a week,” Fairman said. “Many have embraced our new technologies to stay connected to their worship through church. We have done Bible studies through Zoom. It helps people feel present with their faith.”

Fairman said streaming services during Lent leading up to Easter has had at least 100 worshipers follow each week. He said he is pleased with the numbers.

“We will have an authentic Easter worship service,” Fairman said. “We will get back to the building someday, and I remind people that Easter is a season that lasts until the end of May with Pentecost.”

The festival of Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks. In the Christian tradition, this event represents the birth of the early church.

“We will still celebrate Easter,” Fairman said. “This year we will still come together to worship in a different way. Faith is constant.”

Jane Lethlean is a freelance correspondent. jlethlean1210@gmail.com; @DOGWMN2