Red Deer churches are reaching out online to parishioners to celebrate the holy season.
Many faith communities have been celebrating Passover and the Easter season by live streaming and video taping services.
Jordan Polson, executive pastor at CrossRoads Church, said his parish has had services available online for about 12 years and has developed a large, loyal following.
“This Easter is just going to be a different way to celebrate this holy week together as a church family,” Polson said.
He said more people have joined the CrossRoads Church congregation since in-church services were discontinued due to the pandemic.
Those who join in make their homes a place of worship, singing along with the worship team and listening to the message. Online children’s programs are also available.
“As I follow Christ, I feel the presence of God wherever I am, so I think homes all over Red Deer now, whatever church they’re live streaming now, are experiencing the same.”
“The church isn’t shut down, just the building is. It’s been fun live streaming our services and having a few thousand gather every week from their homes to worship together,” Polson said.
Ross Smillie, minister at Sunnybrook United Church, said there are many reasons for people to feel anxious, both physically and spiritually, and he wants to remind his congregation that God is with them during the pandemic.
“All of us in our lives are going to have struggles. The good news is we’re not alone in that,” Smillie said.
New to providing online services, the minister said there have been some challenges.
“There’s copyright issues, there’s technical issues, so there’s some things we have not been able to do. We haven’t been able to include music.”
He said going online is making it easier for some people, such as those with small children.
About 270 people viewed a recent service, up from an average of about 110 when services were held strictly in the church, but it’s difficult to know how long people are watching, said Smillie.
One of his parishioners sent a photo from his favourite chair at home, with his feet up and a mug of coffee, while watching a service.
“He said the pew is certainly more comfortable these days,” Smillie said with a laugh.
Some churches are looking at more ways to connect with their congregation.
Deer Park Alliance Church plans to hold a drive-in service on Easter Sunday.
Healthy families will be able to park their vehicle in the church parking lot to listen to the pastor, who will deliver the sermon from on top of a flat-bed trailer.
All families must stay in their vehicles. Sermons have also been delivered online.
Victory Church has been posting short video clips featuring a roughly 1.5-metre tall bunny visiting Red Deer landmarks. People are encouraged to identify where the bunny has visited, and post their guesses online at Victory Church on Facebook.
“It’s to help people have fun and just relax. People are really getting cabin fever. They are at home with kids and kids are going squirrelly,” said church administrator Pauline Shattock about the video clips that will be posted daily until Easter Sunday.
She said people don’t have to leave their home to participate, and hundreds have been checking out the video. Small daily prizes have been awarded, and on Easter Sunday, there’s a chance to win a $100 gift certificate.
“That’s our contribution to help families stay at home, stay safe and just have fun during this difficult season.”
Shattock said Victory Church also started online church services in mid-March, but it’s still difficult for people to be stuck at home when they are used to socializing, she said.