Churches find new ways to worship apart in community on Easter Sunday

First Assembly of God hosting drive-in service, distribute 'Hope Kits' for home Easter egg hunts

 

CEDAR RAPIDS — First Assembly of God Church in Cedar Rapids is gathering together as a community of believers on Easter Sunday for a drive-in service.

People are invited to turn their car radio stations to a special broadcast to sing songs together and hear a short message on Sunday, April 12, at 4 p.m. or 6 p.m., at First Assembly of God, 3233 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, in Cedar Rapids. When they get to the church, the congregants will be instructed how to listen.

Before leaving, they can drive over to a photo wall and get their family picture taken, all without leaving their vehicles.

“One of the phrases we use a lot is ‘We don’t come to church, we are the church.’ Our people have really resonated with that. We’re one church in multiple locations,” said Pastor Brian Pingel, who leads the church of over 1,000 attendees.

 

The drive-in service will be short — under 30 minutes — and everyone is encouraged to keep their car windows rolled up and be in a car with only their family.

Eastern Iowa churches are continuing to stream services online during the novel coronavirus pandemic. While many pastors expressed sadness in not getting to worship together on Easter Sunday — marking the day Jesus rose from the dead — they are being creative in celebrating the Christian holiday.

Before Easter, First Assembly of God gave out Hope Kits to the community that included a yard sign that says “Hope is Not Canceled,” some Easter eggs they had ordered before the pandemic, and a pinwheel.

 

While the church is working hard to stay connected to the congregation, “it’s going to cost us,” Pingel said.

In the first three weeks of the pandemic, tithing was down 22 percent.

Even so, Pingel said it’s important for the church to give to people in need, especially as people find themselves out of work or making less income.

“I really feel like the church needs to rise up and be the church and give to those in need and come together to make sure no one goes without,” Pingel said.

 

Members of River of Life in Cedar Rapids put up yard signs too, with a lamb representing the “Lamb of God.” A Facebook event encourages people to drive around their neighborhoods and take pictures of any signs they see with the hashtag #findthelamb.

“We wanted to find ways to energize people around the holiday and add some fun and excitement they can’t do corporately this year. Online, we will talk about what it means to find the lamb, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” River of Life Pastor Steve Irwin said.

Irwin recorded a sunrise service to be released Easter Sunday. His messages during the pandemic is centered on hope and purpose, and he uses his platform to encourage his congregation to follow national, state and local guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

 

Urbana Christian Church in Urbana started Holy Week on Palm Sunday, April 5, with a parade.

The congregation was invited to stay in their cars, tune the radio to LIFE 101.9, a Christian radio station, and wave plastic palm branches out the window, commemorating the day Jesus entered Jerusalem.

“Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem reminds us that this is all temporary in light of the eternal,” said interim Pastor Stasia Fine said. “This pandemic is not a surprise to God. Generations before us have lived through (pandemics) and found faith and hope by placing their trust in Jesus.”

 

Stasia said during the pandemic when church’s can’t worship together, she has become grateful for the opportunity in the United States to worship in public without persecution.

“I think it’s a good reminder to the church that religious communities around the world don’t have that privilege,” she said.

Grace Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids is following services by their diocese of Iowa, which about 300 to 400 people tune into weekly.

 

John Greve, priest at Grace Episcopal, said at the urging of some of his members, he put out an additional recorded sermon for his congregation for Easter.

“Easter is a time of resurrection,” Greve said. “How will coming out of COVID-19 be an Easter moment for us? I’m hoping we learn some lessons in how to better love each other and take care of each other.”

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