For the Rev. Paul Block, planning Easter services this year has been like trying to herd a pack of Easter bunnies.
Over the past few weeks, as the coronavirus outbreak has progressed, ideas for Easter services and devotions were conceived, tweaked and even spiked for not meeting stay-at-home and social distancing orders. As a result, said Block, lead pastor of New Song Church in Henderson, “I’ve had to change (concepts) every week.”
Adaptation has been the hallmark of Easter 2020 for Southern Nevada ministers seeking to serve worshippers while ensuring their safety. And while livestreaming, videoconferencing and other forms of online worship have become fixtures of this year’s observances, some pastors are using other novel tactics to bring Easter to congregants.
As with other churches in Southern Nevada, New Song Church will offer livestreamed Easter services.
“We were going to do a joint walking Good Friday experience with another church,” Block said, “and that got scrapped. Then we had to cancel our drive-in service,” in which worshippers would watch a service from their parked cars. Block called off that one a few days before Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Wednesday order formally banning drive-in services and religious gatherings of 10 or more people.
“I was regretting canceling the drive-in services. I thought, ‘Why did I do that?’ ” Block said. “Then (Wednesday) I’m getting all these texts from everybody, ‘The governor just shut down everything.’ ”
One idea that did work out was a Maundy Thursday service that links homebound worshippers together through the Zoom videoconferencing app. Block said the virtual service was to include a hand-washing ritual — versus the traditional foot-washing ritual — using items found in people’s homes.
Instead of the canceled Good Friday walk, the church was planning drive-through Stations of the Cross from noon to 3 p.m. Unlike a drive-in service in which worshippers watch from their parked cars, Block said, participants would drive along a path without parking, keeping their windows rolled up.
Friday’s plans also called for livestreaming of “The Seven Last Words of Christ,” another service.
“One interesting thing since we started doing online services is we’ve developed a small group (of watchers) outside Nevada,” Block said.
While livestreaming and Zoom have become mainstays on area ministers’ tech menus in recent weeks, the Rev. Linda Stanley, pastor of Zion United Methodist Church in North Las Vegas, is finding ministerial success with a more familiar technology: the telephone.
When gatherings of 10 or more people were banned a few weeks ago, Stanley led a drive-up service in the church parking lot. “We had everyone staying in their car. But when the governor and the president called for us to stay at home, we stopped doing that.”
Instead, church members began to use a telephone conferencing service for Sunday worship, employing a service they’ve already been using for morning prayer. Worshippers call the service’s phone number, enter an access code — both have been printed in the church bulletin since July — and conference with Stanley and other church members.
“We have a service where people can get the Word, they can hear music, they can pray, they can confess,” Stanley said. “We’re having the service, but we’re not in the same place.”
For communion, participants “get bread or juice of whatever kind and I’d be praying over the communion elements to bless them,” she said.
Because some church members don’t own computers, the service is available to everyone and there’s no learning curve, she added.
Using a phone for worship might be a bit more basic than using the internet. But, Stanley said, “I’m a basics person, and I feel like God is saying, ‘Get back to basics.’ ”