For many Christians, Easter Sunday is a day to come together to celebrate with their church community with large services, egg hunts and other festivities.
This year, due to the novel coronavirus, Oxford churches have been forced to cancel their in-person Easter services and activities and hold them online. While this disrupts what most people had planned for Easter, Oxford pastors are still making an effort to connect with their community.
Crossroads Church will livestream its Easter service via Facebook, YouTube and on its website, crossroads.net at 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. The service can also be found on cable TV, Apple TV and Roku beginning Saturday evening.
Crossroads Church has 12 locations in Ohio and Kentucky, including one in Oxford. All locations will see the same service on Easter.
Oxford’s Crossroads location has live-streamed its services for people who are unable to attend in person, even before the coronavirus pandemic. Crossroads Pastor Lisa Kuhn said she comments on the live streams, so she still has contact with her congregation.
Crossroads began the third season of a video series called “Real Encounters With God: The Jesus Myth.” It follows their senior pastor and founder of Crossroads, Brian Tome, through a pilgrimage in Israel. He went on the trip several months ago and has been preparing the series since.
Kuhn said one of the hardest parts about the pandemic has been the sudden loss of students. The weekly congregation is made up of around 60% college students.
“To not be able to say goodbye because it was just so sudden was so hard. We really mourned that,” Kuhn said. “We’ve been calling and checking in, so we know how everyone is doing, but we didn’t get that goodbye in person.”
“We just miss each other,” Kuhn said. “There’s something that’s different when you’re constantly around people and you’re actually seeing them when you’re talking. It’s such a valuable part of ministry that we are missing.”
In an attempt to bridge this gap, Crossroads Oxford will be putting together small care packages for their members still in Oxford. It will include coffee, communion kits and activities for children.
Oxford Bible Fellowship
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Oxford Bible Fellowship (OBF) typically holds Easter service held in Armstrong Student Center for approximately 500 people. This year, OBF will livestream its service on Facebook, YouTube and the church’s website, oxfordbiblefellowship.org, at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday.
This Easter, some art students are creating a chalk drawing on a brick wall to be used as the backdrop for the livestream, said Yvonne Vanbibber, the director of connections and women’s ministry at OBF. She hopes this will add some decoration and liveliness to the livestream.
Oxford United Methodist Church
Oxford United Methodist Church (OUMC) will post its service on YouTube, Facebook and its website, oumc.org by 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.
Each year, past and present members of the church choir traditionally come together to sing the chorus of “Hallelujah” during the Easter service. This year, OUMC will use a video of the performance from several years ago. Pastor Caleb Henry said he hopes this will help his congregation feel a sense of normalcy.
“We do this so everyone feels like it’s their normal Easter,” Henry said. “We try to make the video experience as much like Easter, or a simple Sunday morning, as possible.”
The congregation is trying to give back to the Oxford community during the pandemic. OUMC was able to host a drive-thru community dinner, and the church will continue to participate in Feeding America’s Backpack Program. The program gives food to local children who would otherwise struggle to eat at home.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church
St. Mary’s Catholic Church will livestream its service on the church’s Facebook page at 8 a.m. Sunday. St. Mary’s was forced to postpone its Easter vigil on Saturday night, where many adults get baptized and confirmed each year.
To stay in touch with one another, the church called everyone in their parish listserv — around 900 people — to see if they needed any help or prayers during this time.
Father Jeffery Silver said he worried about his congregation getting lonely without the contact from other members while they are forced to be online. He said that is why he feels “the phone calls are so important.”
Faith Lutheran Church
Faith Lutheran Church will post parts of its Easter service on YouTube. Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church Logan Dysart and his team will decide what to include in the YouTube video and will send the hymns to their congregation, so members can read the lyrics at home.
If the church was open as normal, they would have services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, as well as Easter Sunday. Dysart said these traditionally include powerful symbols and messages, such as the clearing of the altar on Maundy Thursday. He will try to include some of the traditions of the Easter service in the YouTube video, but as of Wednesday, he did not have the specifics planned.
A member of the congregation made Dysart a robe that he planned to wear for the first time on Easter Sunday. He said he will still do this and is excited to have one thing continue as planned.
“For us, Easter is not just a day, it’s a season,” Dysart said. “We will celebrate the resurrection and Jesus the Christ. That’s what we do when we gather, and that’s what we’ll do when we gather separately. We will still be together.”