The novel coronavirus has slowed or stopped a number of activities, but not the celebration of one of the holiest days of the church calendar.
Easter services will go forward in the area, albeit mostly in the form of live streaming online. Several area clergy members said their churches will turn to Facebook and YouTube to spread the religious holiday’s message of hope.
Because the Toledo Catholic diocese has suspended church services through May 3, St. Richard Catholic Church in Swanton will air private Good Friday and Easter services recorded by Fr. Eric Culler for his YouTube channel.
A priest for 12 years, Fr. Culler said no physical holiday service is a first for him. “No priest that I’ve talked to has ever experienced a similar thing. Very bizarre,” he said.
When life returns to some normalcy, he plans some special celebration he may link to Easter. Fr. Culler said it may be a Eucharistic procession in early June around the church grounds, connected to Corpus Christi.
“Faith is meant to be experienced directly… so that’s important to have that physical presence with each other,” he said.
For now, parishioners are acting very positively, Fr. Culler said. “They’ve encouraged me and encouraged each other. It’s very edifying to see that.”
Pastor Chuck Whitmire of Shiloh Christian Union Church in rural Delta said a live stream will be held for a 7 p.m. Maundy Thursday service, for which people at home are encouraged to prepare their own bread and wine. A Good Friday service will be held at 7 p.m., and an Easter resurrection celebration service Sunday at 9 a.m. All will be accessible through Facebook or YouTube.
It’s the first time during Pastor Whitmire’s 26 years as a clergyman that no physical Easter gathering will be held. “We all have to adjust. It’s not the ideal circumstance,” he said.
He said while the church’s weekly online service drew over 700 households last week, “Nothing takes the place of face-to-face.”
The first actual Sunday gathering after social distancing ceases will be a time of celebration and rejoicing, Pastor Whitmire said. In the meantime, “It’s a good time to reexamine our lives, consider what’s important in life,” he said. “There are some valuable things to learn from this situation.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.