Faith leaders preparing for Easter Sunday in empty churches

Faith leaders preparing for Easter Sunday in empty churches

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With Easter almost here, Mid-South faith leaders are facing the unusual task of holding services without parishioners in the pews.

We spoke with Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee Bishop Phoebe Roaf via Skype about how Resurrection Sunday will look, now that 1.5 billion people around the globe have been told by their governments to stay home.

"Thinking about ways to make this most sacred day for Christians a special occasion,” said Bishop Phoebe Roaf, Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee.

More people attend church Easter Sunday than any other day of the year.

"Really challenging times for leaders in all fields, but I would say, in particular, the church because community is such an important part of what it means to be a person of faith or believer,” said Roaf.

Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee Bishop Phoebe Roaf says Easter will look very different, but the sentiment is the same.

"God is not confined to a building. And while faith communities aren’t able to worship together in person, the way we have the mission of God has not changed. Prayer has not changed, and all of the values of God, the values of compassion, the values of humility, the values of generosity, those are things that we need now more than ever,” said Roaf.

With the White House announcing COVID-19 cases will spike around Easter, Bishop Roaf says local Episcopal churches have been adapting to the new normal the last few Sundays.

“One of the silver linings in this cloud has been the wonderful creativity that the faith communities are demonstrating in terms of live streaming their Sunday services for the first time, some of them,” said Roaf.

It's just a different process to preach the same ministry.

“Emailing the service bulletin out in advance to all of their members, so that as members are actually watching the live stream, they can follow along in the service bulletin and also say the appropriate prayers in the comfort of their own homes," said Roaf.

And people are now watching both locally, nationally and internationally.

“Our faith communities who’ve been live streaming have actually had more people watching their services via Facebook Live or their website. Some, in some instances, hundreds more than what they have on a typical Sunday,” said Roaf.

From video calls, to phone calls, emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, and note cards, distance has not cut the connection to faith.

“Even in the midst of these challenging times ... I have a real sense of hope, because all of us, or maybe most of us, are looking for a deeper meaning, a deeper purpose and underlying message and significance for our lives, and the relationship with God is the thing that satisfies and fills that need,” said Roaf.

Bishop Roaf urges us all to take care of ourselves and find stress management techniques like walking, seven hours of sleep, and getting the recommended daily intake of water.

She will stream live Easter Sunday from St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Memphis.

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