A digital Easter


With Easter Sunday just a few days away, we thought we’d check in with local churches to see what life’s been like for the past few weeks. While congregations aren’t able to gather in person right now, many churches are getting creative with how they interact with families.

How about a Palm Sunday parade to get you ready for Easter? That’s exactly what Messiah New Hope in northeast Sioux Falls put together this past weekend in an effort to stay apart and together at the same time.  

“One person had a live palm which was hilarious. Holding a plant out the window. We went through the neighborhood and we just drove loops,” Pastor Eric Ohrtman said.

Ohrtman says thinking outside the box this way may sound cheesy but it connected with him emotionally.

“So we honked and cried Hosanna at each other and every time that we did a cul de sac all the cars would wave at each other. It was silly and it was fun but it was just that personal touch,” Ohrtman said.

The 14-car parade also drove past nearby retirement homes.

“The whole facility. All of Washington Crossing was out in their parking lot, on their front decks waving. Edgewood Assisted Living over on the other side, same thing,” Ohrtman said.

Getting that in-person feeling is hard to do these days with everyone in isolation for safety reasons. The circumstances are forcing churches to go online.

“Surprisingly good. We have probably grown since quarantine started,” Ohrtman said.

Messiah New Hope tries to have content each day on Facebook. Down the road, Good Shepherd Lutheran is also using social media more than ever.

“For us here at Good Shepherd, our digital footprint was quite small. So this has been God working all things for good where it’s forced us to increase our online presence. We are doing virtual worship services and now virtual devotions and bible studies every day which wasn’t really happening before,” Johnson said.

Pastor Michael Johnson says this Holy Week will see things that haven’t happened before as well.

“It’s been odd to come into church and it’s just you and a camera,” Johnson said.

In an effort to offer the Lord’s Supper here, Good Shepherd is asking members to schedule communion time.

“We have a sanitized table pre-setup with communion ready for them. The pastor will be at least ten feet away from them at all times,” Johnson said.

Social distancing is something Johnson can’t wait to see go away but for right now, it’s important.

“I personally have three young children at home so like many other people, I don’t know what day it is half the time because kids are going crazy and we’re ready to get out,” Johnson said.

Ohrtman at Messiah New Hope agrees. On top of putting services on Facebook, the church went back to paper newsletters just so he and his family could drop them off at homes and see people through the window.

“Doorbell ring and a chance to see a face and a wave from a car. My daughter loved to ding dong ditch in the name of Jesus. It was a good moment,” Ohrtman said.

Staying safe while also spreading hope.

“These are trying times. These are very scary times for a lot of people. That’s what Easter is all about. It is the guarantee from God that Jesus died for your sins. That he has taken away your sins. You are forgiven. That wonderful comfort still rings true even in these scary times. In fact, that’s what we need more than anything,” Johnson said.

Messiah New Hope also offers its own food pantry for four hours each week. Last week it served more than two months worth of clientele in those four hours. The church is now down to its last $250 worth of funding for its food pantry.

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