Easter is normally a time for religious celebration among families who celebrate the April holiday, but this year was different.
Some of the Vermillion churches used a live stream to deliver messages to the local community over Easter. The Saint Thomas More Newman Center delivered a mass on Easter Sunday, as well as masses prior to Easter.
Dr. Adrianne Adderley, the Assistant Director of the Newman Center said one of the biggest challenges is because people are not physically in the church, which means they can’t receive items such as palm branches on Palm Sunday — which is a week before Easter Sunday.
“That’s very hard for people,” Adderley said. “It’s like the difference between visiting with your family and talking to them on the phone or Skyping.”
Adderley said the challenges of COVID-19 pushed the Newman Center to be creative and apply new ideas to these Lenten traditions. Adderley said palm branches were placed near the person who was reading during the sermon. During the mass on Easter, the lilies were also placed nearby so people could see them on the live stream during the sermon.
“Those are curious choices that you wouldn’t make if you were actually in the space,” Adderly said, “if you were actually in the church, but it was a great joy to be able to think like that and be very intentional about what are we looking at, what’s the symbolism of what we’re looking at.”
Other local churches have also incorporated technology into their religious traditions. Hillside Community Church pastor Nate Hercula said the transition to online services has not been difficult. He said the service is fairly similar to how it would normally go in person, but the support from the local community has also played a key role in the church’s ability to transition to online services with ease.
“We have a team of people who work for the university in town that are IT professionals,” Hercula said. “They do this for a living so they have been able to get us up and running with the live stream pretty easily and thankfully we really haven’t had any issues or glitches.”
Father John Fischer, the pastor of St Agnes Catholic Church said while the structure for Easter mass was mostly unchanged, he felt the impact of the empty church while delivering his sermon.
“It’s really quite weird to be talking to yourself and seeing an empty church,” Fischer said. “I didn’t realize how much I waited for people’s non-verbal feedback, where now I didn’t get any, and it was really hard for me to preach in the sense that nobody was bouncing off of what I was saying.”
He said adjusting his emotional tone throughout his sermon was challenging, but not catching up with the community after the service was even more difficult.
“(I miss) the interaction with the kids, with the adults, catching up on what’s going on in their lives, just the social aspect of it, before and after the church service,” Fischer said. “That’s what I miss a lot.”