Worshipers heed Gov. JB Pritzker's plea to stay home Easter Sunday, celebrate safely amid COVID-19 outbreak

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Normally, Christians would pack local churches for Easter Sunday, but officials have made clear they don't want that happening.

State officials are reminding Illinois residents that there's evidence church gatherings in recent weeks have helped spread COVID-19. Gov. JB Pritzker continues pleading for everyone to practice social distancing, and a large public gathering in a church would be the opposite of that. Pritzker also asked all churches to cancel services Sunday, if they haven't already done so.

That doesn't mean Easter is canceled. Some plan to still put on their Sunday best and attend virtual services that bring new meaning to the holiday.

WATCH: Cardinal Blase Cupich celebrates Easter 2020 Mass from Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral

Many heeded Governor JB Prizker's plea to stay home as most churches in Chicago and across the country remain empty of worshipers.

However, the faithful are still finding ways to celebrate.

It was a different kind of celebration as Easter services were delivered, not to the empty pews, but to parishioners watching from the other side of a screen.

"Easter blessings to all of you who are joining in this Easter celebration from your own homes. In many ways we're reminded that the church is always our home and that we're celebrate the domestic church today," said Cardinal Blase Cupich from Holy Name Cathedral.

The Cardinal also referenced the pandemic in his service.

"He comes to meet us where we are in our illness, our family struggles, our poverty and the many challenges that leaves us discouraged," Cupich said. "Certainly in this moment, in the coronavirus challenge and with all our preoccupations."

Pastor Jonathan Brooks, who leads Canaan Community Church in Chicago's West Englewood neighborhood, said they got creative.

"It's frustrating, but we are having to be creative and I do like that," Brooks said. "I do like that the fact that this is reinforcing the church is not buildings. While we have beautiful church buildings with stained-glass windows and steeples. The church are the people."
Church members made sure Easter service was just as meaningful virtually, as it has been in person.

"Some people are going to get their kids all dressed up," said Danielle Yelverton. "Some of the the adults are going to get dressed up just because, one, it is something they are used to and two, and just to get a little sense of normalcy, dressing up for Easter."

Pastor Brooks said he wanted to focus his Easter sermon on what's happening in his South Side community, not only the deaths resulting from COVID-19, but also the violence.

"We are still experiencing the same type of violence," Brooks said. "We had a young man in our congregation lost to gun violence last night. I want to tie in that we can't get to resurrection without going through crucifixion. So we will get through this pandemic as a city, as a nation, as a world."

On the bright side, Pritzker declared the Easter Bunny an essential worker, so there should be plenty of chocolate around Sunday.

A group of volunteers on the city's West Side put together a 1,000 Easter basket to giveaway.

Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church delivered the holiday baskets tochildren in North Lawndale and Austin, who came out if only for a minute to collect their treats and say hello to the Easter Bunny.

"This epidemic has secluded all of us, and so our children need to get a glimmer of hope," said Rev. Robin Hood with Reedemed Outreach Ministries.

"We just want to bring a little joy to them since we cannot congregate together," said Johnny Jordan with Raw Hope. "We just wanted to show them we're all in this together."

The Easter bunny also made an appearance in Melrose Park, led by the village's first responders. The bunny hopped along every street and greeted children from afar. There was no candy handouts this year, but the event still put a smile on young faces.

Singer Colette Hawley also performed a special Easter concert in northwest suburban Wheeling.

She got into the spirit, wearing a bunny costume as she sang outside the Bella Terra Nursing Home.
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