Drive-up Easter service in the parking lot 2020

Leaders from Christ Missionary Baptist Church and Bethel Cathedral African Methodist Episcopal Church organized a drive-in communion service at Pike High School so people could still be together on Easter Sunday. (Photo provided)

On any other Easter Sunday, Courtney and Juanita Gordon would have gotten together with their family, enjoyed a large meal and had activities for the kids to have fun and learn about the resurrection.

The Gordons, like most other families around the country, were deprived of that this year because of the COVID-19 health crisis.

But even without the normal traditions, they found other things to appreciate and pay special attention to this year.

“It’s the little things that I was just thankful for that day,” said Courtney, 57. “By the little things, I mean the sky, the air we breathe, just being alive right now is just wonderful.”

Courtney and Juanita, 56, watched a livestream from Eastern Star Church and took communion together.

It’s not about sitting in the pews, Juanita said, even though Easter is one of those days that seems to draw everyone to church, but being with only her husband on that day gave her more time to personally reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice.

“Easter at home, it was actually really beautiful for me,” she said. “… It really gave me a true sense of what Christ did for me personally. It was a time of reflection and renewal for me.”

Many churches took their Easter Sunday services online, with pastors trying to assure those who tuned in that, though this is a trying time for many, God is in control.

At Eastern Star Church, Pastor Jeffrey Johnson Sr. said everything that happened to Jesus — from being betrayed by Judas to Roman soldiers gambling for his garments — was prophesied. Nothing caught Jesus off guard.

“Whatever’s going on in your life, no matter how difficult it is, keep on trusting in God,” Johnson said. “He’s going to do everything he said.”

Eastern Star Church streamed three live services on Facebook that, as of April 13, combined for nearly 11,000 views.

Johnson compared the hardships many are facing now — losing a job or taking a cut in pay, even watching loved ones suffer and die — to Good Friday for Jesus. It was his most challenging time.

“This may just be your Friday,” he said, “but if you can just hang on in there until Sunday morning, I serve a God that will give you resurrection victory. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is now living in you.”

Pastor Preston Adams III had a similar message for those who watched the online Easter service at Amazing Grace Christian Church.

“I want to thank God that you have the presence of mind enough to know that no disease, no virus is bigger than the one who had victory placed in his hands on today,” he said. “You’ve got to know that it’s Christ over COVID-19.”

About 1,200 people had watched Amazing Grace Christian Church’s service on Facebook as of April 13.

Adams also said fellowship and worship are not confined to the physical walls of a church building.

“The resurrection is no less significant today because we are not in a physical structure all together. In fact,” he said, “I think the resurrection is even more powerful today because we are still lifting up the name of Jesus.”

John Girton, the recently retired pastor at Christ Missionary Baptist Church, helped organize a drive-in communion service at Pike High School.

There were seven services in total throughout the morning, and Girton estimated there were an average of 10 cars at each service. In keeping with state guidelines, cars could have only one family and couldn’t be parked side by side.

Families were encouraged to bring their own crackers (or bread) and juice for communion. Pastor Carlos Perkins from Bethel Cathedral African Methodist Episcopal Church also helped organize the services.

It was important to still be together in some capacity to take communion, Girton said, because it allowed people to come together and practice “one of the most important ordinances” of the Christian church.

“It’s a day that represents hope for so many,” Girton said. “Right now, based on what we’re dealing with as a nation and global society, hope is something that we need.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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