Australia  |  ,

A very different Easter now we are all in this together (but apart)

Australia’s churches are “in lockstep” as one bishop put it – as we prepare for a socially-distanced Easter in our homes rather than church buildings. In “lockstep” – but we are not stepping anywhere, except to our lounge-rooms.

“Christians may not be able to fellowship with one another and worship God by actually meeting together in these days, but most churches are doing what they can online,” says Dr Peter Barnes, Moderator-General (national leader) of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.

“Look up your church’s website or Facebook page, contact a pastor or Christian friend, and find an online experience of church. Something will be lacking, to be sure, but the God of the Bible enters closed doors.”

For Easter there are some extra special ways to do church at home.

  • Church will be on TV. You will have a wide range of choices.
  • Anglicans will have St Andrew’s Cathedral Sydney services live on Nine Gem 9am Sunday.
    St John’s Cathedral Brisbane service 4pm Good Friday.
  • Wesley Mission Sydney (Uniting Church) has annually broadcast an Easter program since 1961. Shifting this year from Sydney Opera House to a studio environment following strict protocols, the Easter Sunday Sunrise Service will air on Channel 9 at 6am.
  • Catholics will get services live from St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney: The Lord’s Passion at 3pm on Good Friday and Easter Sunday Mass from 10.30am across the country on Channel 7, Prime 7 in regional areas, and live-streamed on 7plus.
    Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral will be on community channel 31 (in Victoria) – The Easter Vigil will be live streamed at 7:30pm on Saturday, and the Easter Sunday Mass at 11:00am.
    Adelaide’s St Francis Xavier Cathedral will be on Channel 44 (Adelaide). Good Friday’s Mass will be streamed and broadcast from 3:00pm, the Easter Vigil from 6:00pm on Saturday, and Easter Sunday from 9:00am.
  • Hillsong Easter services will be online.

Several hundred (possibly more than one thousand) local Australian churches have put their weekly services online. A partial but growing list is available at “Church At Home” here. The ABC has complied a list of major services here.

“The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (13:1), ‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established,’” writes Grant Thomson, Bible Society Australia CEO.

“Christians, like everyone else, have a responsibility to abide by the laws of the land. Yes, Easter is absolutely paramount to our faith. Christ is Risen. We have technology that enables us still to join together while still obeying the physical distancing rules. And we can still, together, boldly state: He is risen indeed!”

“It is imperative that Christians play their part along with everyone in the community …” Geoffrey Smith

The brand new Primate (national leader) of Australia’s Anglicans urges all Christians to worship at home. “Easter 2020 will probably go [down] in history as one of the strangest Easter celebrations we have had, because we will not be able to gather together to celebrate the most important festival of the Christian year,” writes Geoffrey Smith, Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide.

“It is imperative that Christians play their part along with everyone in the community to slow the spread of coronavirus by adhering to the directions provided by the government. One of the great things about the current situation is the incredible growth in online worship opportunities for Easter. Christians will have a wide choice available and that is how we can both celebrate the feast of Christ’s resurrection and serve the community by staying at home.”

Not meeting has a gospel feel to it, says Stephen MacAlpine of the Third Space think tank. “We’re not meeting at Easter. And that’s to teach us a couple of things.  First, that it’s not all about us; we’re in lockdown for the sake of others, despite how healthy we feel. And that has a gospel ring to it. But also, we’re not meeting because Jesus DID rise from the dead! Our hope is in the eternal resurrection, and lament and loss and longing are part of our reality this side of eternity. To demand our rights is the opposite of the cross. To be presumptuous and to meet nonetheless would be to deny the reality of the now, but not yet of the new creation.”

Stephen will be taking part in a new podcast for the Eternity Podcast Network. A sneak peak of the first episode of ‘Life in Wartime’ is here.

While some conservative Christians in other countries have protested church buildings being closed to the public, Martyn Iles from the Australian Christian Lobby makes it clear that that we all should be online. “This Easter season, technology is a godsend – it enables us to honour the governing authorities as we are commanded to do and still give no cause for unnecessary offence or blame in the eyes of our fellow Australians,” says Iles.

“Most importantly it enables us to do all these things without failing in our primary duty to honour God. We can still worship Him, remember the work of the Lord Jesus, and gather with fellow Christians. I would certainly urge Australian Christians to reflect on the unusual days in which we live and ensure their Easter worship is compliant with the temporary coronavirus restrictions.”

And here’s an Easter 2020 prayer by Megan Powell du Toit, Baptist minister, ACT Publishing Manager, and Eternity Podcaster:

Our Lord,

Like the disciples who ran away
And shut themselves in a room
We are grief-stricken and anxious
With good reason, as our world sickens
Like the women who went to the tomb
We long to show love at this time
Yet as we feel lonely and isolated
We remember your forsakenness
And as we struggle to hope
We remember you defeated death
As we long to be present face to face
We know that now through you
We will see God face to face
And dwell with God’s people forever
This Easter, renew our hope
That we may witness to your good news

Amen

The Internet is full of great Easter resources. Here is how to find some

“KCC One” is the new Katoomba Christian Convention App, launching on Good Friday morning. It will be loaded with resources to read, watch and listen to, aiming to provide you with formative spiritual experiences. Also look out for the (Katoomba Easter Convention) KEC at Home and The KYCK Edit content bundles, with resources for this Easter weekend for adults, teenagers and children.

And another brand new one is musician Colin Buchanan’s new video with Zenos Media (which Eternity had a hand in).

A list of free stuff is at Bible Society’s website which has negotiated to make stuff free. Easter highlights include:

There is also a great library of resources from the Centre for Public Christianity – here is a set for Highschoolers .

To help create a special, meaningful Easter experience for your whole family, much-loved Christian author Ann Voskamp has released a “Family program for a deeply meaningful Family Easter – including printable “pandemic prayers”.

A little closer to home, Youthworks has collated suggestions of intergenerational Easter activities that can bring the family together.

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