Church of the Nazarene in Athens, Tennessee (Photo by Whitney Kimball Coe)

Sign up for our newsletter

The coronavirus is interrupting spiritual practices at the very moment rural Americans would normally be turning to religious institutions for solace and support. 

We asked some Daily Yonder friends how they are observing religious traditions during a time of physical distancing and isolation. The question is especially relevant during Holy Week, which concludes on Easter Sunday, and Passover, which continues through April 16.

Here’s what we heard. Add your thoughts on our Facebook page.


RELATED STORY: In rural South Carolina, small United Methodist churches use high-tech and high-touch (from a distance) to connect and console congregants.


+++

I’m looking forward to celebrating Easter in new ways this year. Jesus is alive and showing up in many places just like many centuries ago! I’ve seen the church reach out to many people in many ways that they did not even consider two months ago. 

As far as an Easter service on Sunday, I can start off celebrating with brothers and sisters in Kenya, Africa, at 3 a.m. Kentucky time (also known as the pre-sunrise service). I can also celebrate along with my family and friends with church services in Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Kansas, Michigan, Georgia and other places and share the glory with them in worship and conversations later. 

Our churches and groups are using YouTube, VIMEO, Premier video. The larger churches are using the church website and Facebook live. Some churches are using small local FM transmitters. Zoom calls are working very well for small groups. The large groups (25+) use it more just as a presentation.

John Denham
Maysville, Kentucky

+++

In light of COVID-19, I have found this week before Easter very meaningful for myself. The slower pace of life at this time has given me more time to reflect on the Resurrection and the hope it instills in me for this life and for eternity.  Worship this year will just be in a different place. [Preaching is broadcast via radio and a Sunday school class will meet via Zoom.] I have appreciated the beauty of spring with the birds singing, the green of the mountains, the gorgeous pink of cherry trees and dogwoods, yellow of forsythia and daffodils and the lilac of the butterfly bush.  I will miss gathering with family, but they are held close in my heart and thoughts.  

Melissa Newell
Whitesburg, Kentucky

+++

Susie of Long Island helped her extended family arrange an online gathering to celebrate the first day of Passover, which was Wednesday. Here’s part of her invitation to family:

Happy Passover! Chag Sameach! We hope you are all well. 

In keeping with the restricted times we live in and taking advantage of modern technology, we are setting up a Family Passover Zoom Kiddush on Wednesday — connecting family on the East and West coasts and everywhere in between. 

All are welcome to join in…

Families welcome/kids welcome. Julie is making up a concise program of lighting candles, kiddish for 1st cup of wine, Shehecheyanu, Four Questions (would love kids to join in) and 11 plagues this year. Charlie will be our leader. A short time together and then everyone can continue on to their own seders/family meals. 

It will be fun and heartwarming…we need this!

Hope to see you soon on Zoom! Thanks so much.

Cousin Susie 

+++

Holy Week started with Palm Sunday.  I set a table to represent Communion, as I watched church online.  Instead of Palm branches to wave, I improvised with my bamboo branches.

Fran Denham
Maysville, Kentucky

Photo by Fran Denham

+++

This Easter is going to be unlike any other – that is for sure. Thankfully, on Easter Sunday, I will still be able to gather with my parents because we have all been socially distant for more than three weeks now and finally feel it is safe to see one another. 

The knowledge of being able to spend Easter with my family has really lifted my spirit over the last few days, because there was only one other Easter that I did not celebrate with my family. 

Initially, when I was a grad student and couldn’t make it home, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal – “it’s just one year.” However, I learned that it is a big deal. I craved to be with my family – both my parents and my church family – that Easter morning in grad school, my heart hurt. 

Social distancing has been hard – because we are not often asked to show our love and respect for one another by staying away or by turning around when we see each other walking down the grocery aisle. Yet, watching people work together and navigate through this unprecedented time in our history has been awe-inspiring.

When my Sunday school class met this past Sunday via Zoom, a calm rushed over me that I hadn’t felt in weeks.My church family and I were together again – be it in a different (and still somewhat distant) way. We were able to check in with one another – share our calm and share our fears and pain with one another. It was cathartic to say the least. 

This Easter I have no doubt that being able to spend the day with my parents, and Zoom with my Sunday school folks, will be wonderful and meaningful and renewing – which really, isn’t that the gist of Easter anyway?

Courtney Crittenden
Chattanooga, Tennessee (Courtney attends church in Athens, Tennessee)

+++

On a normal Easter Sunday, my sister would bring her family home from Asheville, and we would all go to Sunday’s service at Friendship Baptist Church with my mom and dad. The hardest part about this quarantine has been not being able to see my parents. My husband, two children, and I live on the same farm that I grew up on about a mile down the road from my parents. Because my parents are high risk for complications from the virus, we have decided it would be best not to see them. Through our many FaceTime calls and group chats, my mom, my sister, and I have been remembering how things were when we were kids all at home together and rarely left the farm. We recently recalled that every Easter season we would watch “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. This year we are all going to watch it separately. Although we are apart, it is comforting to do something that reminds us of a time when we were so close together.

Melissa Fugate
Athens, Tennessee

+++

Although we will GREATLY miss seeing family this year, we will still be celebrating Easter with song, prayer, stories, FaceTime, and a BIG Easter egg hunt in our back yard with our two little girls. 

Lena McDonough
East Grand Rapids, Michigan

+++

I have worshipped with my own church on Facebook and with Adam Hamilton’s Methodist church in Leawood, Kansas ( ed.-Church of the Resurrection). Having read several of his books, this has been a real blessing.

Our Bible study and Share Group have continued to meet via Zoom and texting.

I look forward to watching my granddaughters hunt eggs via FaceTime!

Cathy Miller
Maysville, Kentucky