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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Church is closed for Easter, or is it? ‘The church is the people’

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In a small Ohio town about 30 minutes north of Cincinnati, a TV reporter approached a woman who was driving away from Palm Sunday service.

“Aren’t you concerned you can infect other people if you get sick inside?” CNN’s Gary Tuchman asked.

“No,” the unidentified woman said. “I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

Ohio has a stay-at-home order, but churches are exempt. It is still against the recommendation of health officials to gather in crowds.

In Indiana, church offices can remain open as a designated essential business, but they are required to abide by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which prohibit more than 10 people gathering together.

This would throw tradition off kilter for anyone who goes to church, but now is an especially inconvenient time for churches to close because of Easter.

For Stanley Hubbard, pastor at Kingsley Terrace Church of Christ, there’s a silver lining to not being able to get together at churches like what would normally happen on Easter Sunday.

Big hats and extravagant clothes aren’t important at all to Easter, Hubbard said. The same thing applies to bunnies and eggs. It’s all irrelevant to Jesus rising from the dead. If no one can get together at church, the thinking goes, maybe the focus will return to where it should have been all along.

“There’s something about crisis in life that makes you get rid of all the fluff and makes you focus on what’s real,” Hubbard said.

People tend to think they’re in control of their lives, he added, and it’s times like these that serve as a stark reminder that, no, people have no control at all.

In fact, Hubbard said, “We’ve never been in control.”

For those who are concerned that Easter just won’t mean as much this year without the church service and family gatherings, no one can tell you you’re wrong. Those are personal feelings, and they’re probably tied strongly to tradition.

Hubbard and others are trying to remind their congregations that the physical church just serves as a convenient meeting space. The real church — the one that makes a difference — is the people.

“Are we closing the church?” Hubbard asked. “No. The church is the people; therefore it never closes.”


That’s the same way Pastor Denell Howard feels.

Howard, at Hovey Street Church of Christ, detests Easter as a pagan holiday that’s “phenomenal for capitalist Christianity” because people spend big money on suits and dresses. It’s one of three days of the year that draws what’s referred to as the CME crowd: those who only go to church on Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter.

But even if you’re someone who wants an extravagant show of faith, Howard said it’s not that big of a deal that you can’t be at a physical church on Easter Sunday.

“We have a pandemic right now,” he said, “so whether people can go to a house of worship on Easter is not a concern.”

Howard pointed out that the Greek word for church — ecclesia — refers to a group of faithful people. It’s a compound word that means “to call out.” It wasn’t until later that the word came to signify an actual assembly.

Howard’s prayer for people during this time:

“Consider the God of heaven,” he said. “Consider what Easter is really about. Consider the sacrifice. Consider what sacrifices are they willing to make for family and friends.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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