Churches all over the world are finding new ways to celebrate the Easter Holidays. Reverend Kate Cress, the Rector at St. James Episcopal Church on Wilshire Blvd told the Buzz how she quickly learned to use Zoom and Facebook to live stream their services since the stay-at-home orders and social distancing orders were implemented in last month. Cress and her fellow participants, gather on Zoom for the service which is then live streamed on Facebook and recorded so everyone can watch if they missed the live stream.
“At first it was awkward, seeing all these faces in boxes, sort of like the Brady Bunch TV credits,” said Cress. “But now, we are used to it, and we really enjoy seeing all the comments coming in during the service; everyone is greeting each other and it’s becoming more and more real. We are together, but together in a different way and appreciating each other more than usual since everything seems more precious now.”
Cress said is thankful to Justin Baker, a social media guru and his company @Fuzz Social who was already helping the church but really jumped in to help teach everyone how to provide virtual services to the church community and still comply with requirements for social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Not all the traditions can be done virtually, however. Last week they considered passing out palms for Palm Sunday using a drive through, but decided it required too many people and too much touching that it could be unsafe, explained Cress. There’s also no communion but fortunately Cress’s colleague Jon Feuss is married so he and his husband can give each other communion as part of the Zoom service while the community takes it spiritually, she added.
For the most the part, they have figured out how to conduct their regular services. Earlier this week Cress conducted a Maundy Thursday service starting the Easter holiday. They also conducted a Stations of the Cross service on at noon on Good Friday.
“At 5 p.m. tonight we will be live streaming an Easter Vigil for families and everyone where the kids from the church will be leading us in reading the prayers and passages to celebrate the vigil and ring in Easter,” said Cress.
Easter Sunday services will be held at 10:30 a.m. in English followed by another service at 12:30 p.m. in Korean. Check their website for how to view the live stream.
Cress said there are many vulnerable people in the congregation, but fortunately, no one has gotten sick. However, she worries about their homeless members who tell her that most of their support system is closed. They can’t go to the library, so they can’t use computers, so many places are closed where they could have used the restroom or charged their phones, refilled their waters bottles, etc., explained Cress.
“We used have a Friday evening meal, now we can only do grab and go,” said Cress. “But we still have food pantry and showers on Saturday, it’s not the sense of community we were able to offer.”
Cress is also short of volunteers because she’s asked all those over 65 to stay home. But she’s now working on an idea to find an angel to help our her kitchen volunteers by helping the church buy meals for the 140 people they serve that could be purchased from a local restaurant. It could be a good way to to support local restaurants and help out her volunteers if she can find a restaurant who can handle the request.
“I just want to make sure everyone knows that we are still here and we have figured out how to stay connected,” said Cress. “Our school curriculum is entirely online and we are looking forward to our first all school chapel, community meeting this week. Something beautiful is happening in the midst of all this sorrow.”