WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — Churches around Central Ohio adapted their traditional Easter Sunday celebrations to keep churchgoers safe in the era of a pandemic.
Many have been streaming online services since the state first announced social distancing recommendations in early March.
In addition to live webcasts, Central College Presbyterian Church in Westerville has been holding a drive-in service for several weeks. On Easter, it even attracted people who don’t normally attend the church.
“I was just driving by and I saw that they were having services, so I said I’ll stop by. I was going to go over to Hoover Dam and just look at the sunrise, but this is a great idea,” said Carlene McNeal.
The church’s Easter service is typically non-traditional. Sometimes more than 1,000 people attend the early morning celebration at the Hoover Reservoir Causeway. This year, in lieu of lawn chairs at the dam, attendees stayed in the cars in the church parking lot.
“We thought this might be a good opportunity, with everything that’s going on, to have the social distancing, but yet participate in an actual service,” explained Stephanie Hennegan, who was also visiting the church from a different congregation.
Central College Presbyterian asked the state if a drive-in service was within health recommendations. State leaders approved the practice, allowing families to listen to the message and music while staying in their vehicles with the windows rolled up.
“We have needs that are even beyond what our bodies need,” explained Pastor Malcom Davis. “We want to keep our bodies safe, but we have needs for community and needs to be in the spirit together.”
Davis delivered a message of hope to the congregation Sunday, explaining the health crisis and Stay at Home order could also be an opportunity to pause and reflect.
“It’s a time I think when God is bringing good things in the midst of things that aren’t so good,” he said.
Others agreed their perspectives have shifted while being forced to quarantine.
“What do you do with Easter when you can’t have Easter egg hunts and you can’t do traditional things? I think it just gets you back to what Easter is,” said McNeal.