Ashley Holbert

(Fort Mill, S.C.) — Many Christians tried to find new and creative ways to celebrate Easter this year, as group gatherings in many states were restricted to stop the spread of COVID-19.

This year, many families tuned-in to Easter services from their living rooms as meetings went online.

“What was the most fascinating thing about church services streaming online on Easter was their ability to not only connect to people from home, but give people the ability to give feedback in the middle of the service,” said Tyler Fulton, a Fort Mill resident.

“Unlike a live service, people have the ability to comment (online) their thoughts, which expanded to more than just an amen. At the end of the day, relationships are what we’re looking for and we’re in a time when that has to take place virtually.”

However, others said they were not a fan of the online option.

“I just think that when you do church through streaming, it just feels very impersonal and the pastor cannot gauge how you are receiving his message so that definitely changes the overall message,” said Ryan Cole, also of Fort Mill. “Also, you’re not sitting next to your neighbor that you hold the same beliefs of and that has an effect.”

While many churches offered online services, many Christians still wanted to celebrate Easter with other friends and family.

A number of families gathered in a cul-de-sac in the Enclave neighborhood of Fort Mill, the day before Easter to host a small impromptu service.

Easter Celebration
Several families gathered in Fort Mill’s Enclave neighborhood for an impromptu service the day before Easter, but York County Sheriff’s deputies quickly dispersed the group (photo: Ashley Holbert).

The group tried to remain separate by household, sitting apart from one another on lawn chairs and golf carts, but it wasn’t enough.

“One of the neighbors asked me if I would just do a little message. I am definitely not a pastor, just a believer of Christ,” said John Jarrett, who spoke at the service.

“We maintained our social distancing within our family units of six feet apart, but apparently someone called the sheriff and the (deputies) came and told us to disband, according to the governor’s orders.”

As the group dispersed, one man yelled, “This is unconstitutional!”

Others hurriedly rode away on their golf carts, while a deputy from the York County Sheriff’s Office waited to make sure each family returned to their home.

At Winthrop University, the campus is home to a variety of church groups, which had to adapt when the school moved to remote learning for the rest of the semester.

Leaders had to get creative to make sure students felt connected in the weeks leading up to Easter.

Winthrop junior Nicole Smith, 25, who recently lost her husband to cancer after three years of marriage, said her Bible study group at Reformed University Fellowship has encouraged community from a distance.

“We have a group chat on Group Me so we can discuss everything on there, talk about prayer requests and stuff like that,” said Smith. “And then we meet on Zoom every Monday night to have Bible study.”

At Freedom Church in Gastonia, N.C., leaders did not want children in the area to miss out on Easter traditions, which are not so easily replaced by online options.

Thus, church leaders made over 40 Easter baskets and delivered them to kids in their congregation, while wearing gloves and masks.

“It’s hard not to get discouraged when you see the big budget productions and online activities that leaves me thinking, ‘how in the world did they think of that so quickly,’” said Brittany Price, a youth leader at Freedom Church.

“It’s never been about the 10 out of 10 quality, although we love that. It’s about the people. We’re family and we’re in this together. So yes, today we delivered 40 baskets to 25 families and we will do an Easter egg hunt online,” she said. “It might not be the same as being together, but it’s giving us a bit of togetherness in this time apart.”