This week is a special Easter Week in which churches in Wallowa County — and around the world — are finding unique ways to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, and at the same time reach out to the needy in their communities.
“Our salvation in Jesus is not jeopardized by the pandemic,” said Pastor Micah Agnew, of the Abundant Life Assembly of God Church in Enterprise. “We still celebrate … because we have eternal hope.”
Agnew is but one pastor in the Wallowa County Ministerial Association who has been working to find new ways to minister to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic has forced “social distancing,” church-goers cannot gather as usual. Many churches are going online, broadcasting services over the radio or, for those with limited technology, sending out sermons in the mail.
As for the unique plans for worship, Bruce regularly broadcasts his Sunday sermons on the radio. On Palm Sunday, he welcomed those who wanted to attend to do so — but they had to stay in their cars with the windows up and maintain social distancing. They could greet those in neighboring cars, but were told not to get out. Then, at 11 a.m., they were invited back for a “drive-through” church where they’d wave and go off to pick up a dinner order they’d placed.
“We urge them to support our local businesses by ordering a take-out dinner and going home to eat,” Bruce said.
He plans something similar for next Sunday — Easter, though he’s hoping to do something along the lines of a socially distanced but traditional sunrise service.
Agnew, at his church, had hoped to do a “walking service” for Good Friday, where congregation members would walk through town while he’d play guitar and they’d sing. He said he checked with Police Chief Joel Fish to see if it would violate the governor’s directive on social distancing and Fish said it probably would. Instead, Agnew will ask those in his church to hold a prayer vigil on their front lawns. He’ll announce Easter plans on the church website.
Father Thomas Puduppulliparamban, parish priest for St. Katherine Catholic Church, had canceled Holy Week activities at the church but planned by-appointment confessions. However, after Pope Francis announced common absolution because of the pandemic, no confessions are necessary.
“It’s really important to maintain maximum isolation,” Father Thomas said.
As for Holy Week services, they will be streamed online from Baker City by Bishop Liam Cary.
This year’s Easter services and celebrations in every church in Oregon and across most of the globe will be unique and different, and are teaching clergy and congregants new ways to worship. But for every Christian, the meaning is still the same. As Pastor Agnew noted,
“It’s more than a dead man coming back to life. It’s the defeat of death for all who would believe in Jesus.”