The current COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting nearly every aspect of our lives, including, sadly, our ability to worship in public. Each of our churches has suspended worship services for the time being, even as we hope and pray that the current public health crisis will be contained reasonably soon. But unless and until federal and local officials advise that it is safe to gather in public again, we feel an obligation to protect our communities from this insidious disease by keeping our churches closed. In a crisis such as this, we need to exercise vigilance lest our churches unwittingly become points of transmission of the disease.
We say all this with a heavy heart, of course, particularly as Easter approaches, the holiest time of year for Christians. We would like nothing more than to celebrate the good news of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ by gathering publicly as we usually do with large and festive services. But, alas, we simply cannot this year for the sake of our community. Please stay home and stay healthy. The Savior we worship, after all, was a healer of the sick, and a protector of the vulnerable, and in his footsteps we must now follow.
This also means that we will not be gathering as usual at sunrise for an ecumenical Easter celebration on Singing Beach. Much as we love this annual tradition, such a public gathering would be contrary to the orders of local and state authorities, and would pose undue health risks to all concerned. So, sadly but necessarily, there will be no Easter service on the beach at dawn on April 12; nor will there be our traditional Ecumenical Good Friday service on April 10.
None of this is to say, however, that Holy Week and Easter will be forgotten this year or that this virus will in any way dampen the joy that the good news of the risen Christ brings to our hearts. During Holy Week and on Easter Sunday, there will be many services broadcast on television and available on the web for families to enjoy, and we invite you to contact any one of us for recommendations. Moreover, worshipping as a family in the confines of our homes can be a surprisingly intimate and authentic way to celebrate this holiest of times. We stand ready to help you plan such family services. Let us together find the blessing hidden in the adversity of the present moment by renewing our faith through creative and unexpected forms of worship.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in the midst of this public health crisis we must continue to look out for each other with mutual care and support, keeping the vulnerable among us especially in mind. Keep in touch with one another by phone and email, pray for each other, and let us be attentive to the needs of all those who are alone, sick, without means, or unable to care for themselves. We are invited to love another as Jesus loved us, and living into that invitation in these troubled times may well be the very best way we can celebrate the good news of our resurrected Lord.
Easter blessings to you all,
Pastor Ryan Ackerman, Cornerstone Church (Baptist)
Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea, First Parish Church (Congregational)
Father Paul Flammia, Sacred Heart Parish (Roman Catholic)
Rev. Luther Zeigler, Emmanuel Church (Episcopal)