In normal times, churches build up to Easter Sunday for weeks, often adding extra services or more seating capacity for what traditionally is the biggest day of the Christian year.
The coronavirus and the bans it has caused against congregating in groups of two or more have eliminated Easter morning at church. Instead, live-streamed services on YouTube or Facebook is the rule.
"We're going to make it as special as we possibly can — on line," said Father Michael Reardon at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Belmont Shore. "It is a wonderful day, and we'll celebrate it."
Reardon said the Holy Week services begin this Sunday with Palm Sunday and decorations outside the church. special Masses begin Thursday, all online at www.stbartholomewcclb.org. On Good Friday, a large cross will be placed outside and parishioners will be encouraged to follow the stations of the cross remotely. Easter Sunday Mass is at 9:30 a.m. at www.stbartholomewcclb.org.
"On Easter Sunday, our sanctuary will be as empty as Jesus's tomb," Senior Pastor David Clark said at Bay Shore Community Congregational Church. "This emptiness of our sanctuary is a sign of our commitment to life — to saving lives, to celebrating the gift of life, to our commitment to look out for each other. Our Easter worship has been a staple in the lives of people in Long Beach for 95 years and we will be there with people all the way through the current crisis and for years beyond that."
Clark said Bay Shore's Easter service will be prerecorded, and premier online as at 9:30 a.m. on FaceBook and YouTube. It will be available on the church's website, email@example.com for later viewing.
At the Long Beach Rescue Mission, most of those being served don't have a computer to watch online services. But they still count on the Rescue Mission for an Easter meal, executive director Robert Probst said. At least 1,000 people are expected, he added.
"Although times are difficult, we realize that a warm meal is still the first sign of hope for many," Probst said. "To continue our Easter tradition, we are inviting all in need to practice safe distancing while picking up a well prepared meal at the door. Meals will be served at our doors at 11 a.m. on Easter Sunday followed by Grab and Go Dinner at 6 p.m."
The Mission is at 1335 Pacific Ave. Call (562) 591-1292 or visit www.lbrm.org to donate.
Many churches are going above and beyond to make the Easter online service special. At Grace Community Church in Seal Beach, the minister of music, Justin Fox, is putting a video choir together for the two services at 9:30 and 11 a.m., with a connection at gracesealbeach.org.
"People throughout our church sing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" at their homes," Senior Pastor Bob Wriedt said. "It's all edited together and presented on Easter. The idea is to help people see and connect with a wide variety of people in the church."