Chicago pastors taking virtual church to the next level for Easter Sunday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- One of the biggest religious holidays of the year will be a lot different for many people in the Chicago area.

Church leaders are tasked with keeping their members engaged and connected on Easter amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Church leaders ABC7 spoke with spoke said it's inevitable that this Sunday will be very different from previous Easter Sundays, but they said they believe parishioners will be pleasantly surprised with their virtual services and their creative ways to honor celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There's a great deal of pomp and circumstance that comes on Easter Sunday, from the choir, the music and the story of Christ performed on stage, but at New Life Covenant Southeast, this Sunday will be a lot quieter.

"You can't see the people, you can't hear them," said Senior Pastor John Hannah, New Life Covenant Southeast. "You can't have the choir, you can't have the band. There are so many different pieces of a puzzle that are now missing."

The church was supposed to have Easter service here at the UIC Pavilion with nearly 9,000 members and guests in attendance. Those plans have shattered due to COVID-19.

But Pastor Hannah says one thing is sure to remain: his church will honor the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it won't be your typical church service.

"One of the things we're going to look at is getting families to send in videos," Pastor Hannah said. "This is the Smith family. Happy Easter. Happy Resurrection Sunday!"

He says they'll incorporate videos and performances from guests speakers.

"Using social media, we have the monitors set up so that I can see the names of those that are logged in, those that are commenting, I can read those comments while I'm preaching," Pastor Hannah said. "So I try to make it as personal as I can."

Similar to Pastor Hannah, Pastor Bill Bertsche at the Moody church says this Easter Sunday will be much different.

"It's going to be scaled back quite a bit," said Executive Pastor Bill Bertsche of The Moody Church. "Normally we have a large orchestra and a large choir, obviously we can't have either one of those."

But both pastors agree, while the location may not be what their members are used to, Christ is still the reason for the season.

"The celebration of Jesus' resurrection. Without that, there is no Christianity. The focus will be on the gospel," said Pastor Bertsche.

While preaching from afar they believe now more than ever, is the time to stand firm in your faith,

"If I can say anything, Sam. I have been able to reach more people online that could ever get in that building," Pastor Hannah said. "What I love about God, he's bigger than a wall, he's bigger than a door and he will meet you where you are,"

When asked about virtual tithing and giving, both pastors said they fortunately haven't been significantly impacted and many of their members have found it easy to give online during COVID-19. When asked if parishioners should dress up, they said absolutely.

For Christians in Chicago, there are many ways to observe Holy Week at home.

You can watch a Good Friday worship service, featuring pastors and ministers from 7 South Side churches. "7 Cries from Chicago" airs this Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.

You can watch if on digital Channel 7.2 as well as many other channels and will be streamed on ABC7Chicago.com.

You can watch Easter Sunday mass celebrated by Cardinal Blase Cupich on ABC7 at noon and will also be streamed on ABC7Chicago.com.
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