In this article, we’ll look at three different churches and how they’re handling Easter Sunday in a time like no other.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected every corner of society, thrusting all of us into a new way of life essentially overnight — and houses of worship certainly weren’t exempt from its effects.
As gatherings were restricted around the world, churches — many of which had never broadcast live before in any form — were forced to reckon with how they would reach their congregations in a totally virtual manner without sacrificing the fellowship and engagement that only these institutions can bring.
And reckon they did.
Hastily prepared setups bloomed into full-scale operations, churches around the country delivered live worship like never before, and the resiliency of these houses of worship was on full display.
Now, with vaccines rolling out around the world and safe, precaution-adhering gatherings back on the agenda, three churches — North Florida Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Crossroads Church in Austin, Texas and Foundation Church in Newnan, Georgia — are working to deliver a beacon of hope during a time of uncertainty.
How will these houses of worship proceed with their Easter Sunday events and series?
Let’s meet them and find out.
North Florida Baptist Church is a house of worship steeped in tradition — the church has a long-standing Easter Sunday tradition of an Easter Sunrise Service at a local cemetery going back more than four decades.
However, the church is in a period of critical revitalization.
“The church has been around for 50-some odd years,” said Josh Savage, Worship Pastor. “At one point, I think it was cutting-edge — they were actually recording live services on vinyl. The church has obviously come down the past 15 or 20 years. … We want to bring the gospel back to the church. We want to bring worshipers back to the church and almost a camaraderie — a renewed vision and renewed energy.”
Senior Pastor Fayez Ayoub agreed, adding that the church has strayed from an original purpose of deep relationships, love and genuine connection.
The duo joined the church about three years ago, and progress has been measured — but the COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges.
“COVID did not make [getting back to that mission] any easier,” Ayoub said. “It’s so heavy on relationships. … We had to adapt pretty quickly.”
Savage called keeping pace with COVID a “moving target,” and the church has experienced an evolution of recording Savage playing alone on Wednesday, live streaming solo performances, and, now, getting instrumentalists involved with precautions in place.
“That’s been the difficult part,” Savage said. “How do you connect through a camera with something that is so personal?”
Foundation Church, a church plant that’s been serving the Newnan community for around three years, and Lead Pastor Clint Nolder have experienced the same challenges.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, Nolder said he’s looking to revitalize a community.
“Where we’re at, in the historic district in Newnan … if you were to drop a pin and do a five-mile radius around it, 64 to 72% of the folks in that radius were disconnected from faith,” he said. “We started asking the question, ‘Why?’”
“What we found is that everyone had the exact same answers. People felt judged. People felt like, ‘I don’t fit in. I don’t belong. My life’s not together.’ … It was then we realized that we wanted to plant a church for those folks.”
When the pandemic hit, Foundation doubled down on its stated mission — that Sunday mornings aren’t the end all, be all of ministry. As Nolder puts it, “Sunday mornings are not [our] destination. People are [our] destination.”
With that in mind, the church pivoted to live streaming for the first time in its history. Spearheaded by a staff member with experience in the field, the church rented equipment, then decided to purchase and invest in its congregation, a move that’s paid dividends as the pandemic has stretched over the better part of a year.
It was a similar situation for Crossroads Church, Worship Pastor EmJae Martinez and Lead Pastor Brady Traywick. Crossroads has seen quite a bit of evolution in its 14 years, from humble beginnings in an elementary school meeting space to finalizing plans to build its own multi-acre campus in the Austin area to serve its congregation, build the premier venue for Christian musicians and bands in the city, and more.
“Austin is cool, and, in God’s bigness and His sovereignty, Apple’s building another billion-dollar campus, and Tesla just moved here and is doing the same thing. … For whatever reason, God is moving the world to Austin,” Traywick said. “We’ve got this incredible opportunity to reach [the world].”
With a dedicated volunteer staff, the church navigated COVID challenges by transitioning from pre-recorded worship and sermons to full-scale broadcasts, and it’s seen tremendous success in keeping its body engaged.
All three churches, staring down the move to virtual worship and service, leaned on the skills and talents of members of their teams with audiovisual experience. Other churches can follow that lead after the fact, working to either expand their teams with new people with that expertise or engaging in training for current team members to be better prepared for any eventuality.
Now, with Easter Sunday around the corner, all three churches are looking to continue the forward momentum they’ve built in navigating the last year’s challenges.
All three churches have unique plans for the upcoming holiday, which Traywick labeled the “Super Bowl for Christians,” but one mindset is shared among them: Easter Sunday service is a chance to roll out the red carpet for any and all comers and to focus on their foundational vision to bring people to God.
With in-person gatherings likely to be possible for the holiday under careful precautions, all three are working toward a live event, but that decision comes with its own share of hurdles to clear.
At Foundation Church, Newnan, Easter Sunday service will be held in the auditorium of the high school the church meets at, with a local park reserved as a backup plan. The church also plans to hold an event Good Friday targeted at those who don’t feel comfortable coming to church on a Sunday morning, fulfilling its mission of working to serve those disconnected from faith.
Crossroads Church, Austin is planning a fully outdoor event in a large tent that seats 400 people, allowing them to provide a sense of comfort and peace of mind for the congregation, many of which may not have been to an in-person event since the onset of the pandemic.
Finally, North Florida Baptist Church will hold a series of events, including an outdoor meal Thursday, a Good Friday morning prayer session, Saturday Easter egg hunts in the community, their traditional cemetery sunrise service, and traditional service inside their historic building.
All three churches’ plans have one thing in common — they need versatile audio solutions to help empower the best experience possible for worshipers, even in the face of changing precautions and new-look Easter Sunday events.
“The challenge is this — as a worship pastor, you want to eliminate distraction,” Savage said. “That’s hard to do with a PA system that’s already distracting. … Trying to get a consistent sound that is as least distracting as possible is difficult. [We need] clarity at different frequencies. To have a low end, to have a high end, to hear properly in the service, then to be able to go outside on the football field for out other events.
“Clear and consistent [is all we need].”
All three churches are confident that they’ll be able to execute their Easter Sunday event as planned, and that planning process is currently underway.
Bose will be following their journeys leading up to Easter. This series will have regular updates on their progress, showcasing the planning, development and execution of their Easter events and their tireless work to realize their core visions of serving and revitalizing their communities as best they can, even in the face of never-before-seen conditions.
To follow along, keep up to date on the Bose Church home page.