By Elizabeth Young
A stay-at-home order because of COVID-19 didn’t stop Arizona Southern Baptist churches from celebrating Easter and sharing the Easter story, sometimes in creative ways.
In their online sermons on Palm Sunday, pastors in the Valley Life network of churches in greater Phoenix encouraged members to “preach” their own sermons for Easter. In their community groups during the week, members were taught how to share their “Before, How, Now” stories by explaining: Before I met Jesus, my life was like _______, (How) Then I repented of my sins and put my faith in Jesus, Now my life is like _______.
“Instead of Valley Life pastors preaching one Easter sermon to 800-1,000 people, we are asking 800-1,000 people to preach Easter sermons to their friends,” said Brian Bowman, lead pastor of Valley Life — Tramonto, in a post on Facebook.
Members shared their testimonies in a variety of ways, including through video and written testimonies posted on social media.
On Easter Sunday, Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek, released on YouTube and Facebook a four-and-a-half-minute video compilation of members at home personally completing the sentence “Because the tomb is empty …”
Just before Easter, Charles Short, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fort Mojave, used Facebook Live for a virtual Easter egg hunt for the church’s children. Walking around the church with his phone, he found plastic eggs with verses inside about the resurrection.
Royal Palms Baptist Church, Phoenix, delivered Easter kits with home activities to teach the Easter story to all the church families with children. It was combined with Easter eggs and dropped off at every house with the message, “You’ve been egged!”
Members of First Southern Baptist Church, Thatcher, prepared ahead of time for the church’s streaming of the Easter service on Facebook and YouTube. They were asked to drive by the church building on Good Friday to receive bags for children, prepackaged Lord’s Supper elements and goodie bags.
First Baptist Church, Winslow, offered drive-thru communion and prayer during a half hour on Easter.
The Church at Estrella, Goodyear, spread the word through social media before Easter that it was offering “Communion Delivery Service” of free “factory-sealed” containers of grape juice and crackers to people’s doorsteps. The invitation stated people could worship online with the church or with their own church.
Pastor Charles Sheffe said 215 containers were distributed, and most people worshipped with The Church at Estrella, where about 125 usually worshipped before worship services went online only.
Heart Cry Church, Queen Creek, held a Kids Easter Drive Thru the Saturday before Easter, distributing lesson plans for parents to teach their children on Easter, crafts, a coloring page and Easter eggs filled with candy,
Among churches holding Easter services in cars in church parking lots were First Baptist Church, Chandler, and Catalyst Church, Casa Grande, both of whom also provided prepackaged elements for the Lord’s Supper. In Chandler, churchgoers were invited to honk to voice their amens.
Foothills Southern Baptist Church, Yuma, held an “Easter on the Drive” outreach Easter Sunday afternoon. The event, publicized on Facebook before Easter, invited families in the neighborhood near the church to call for a drive-by with a three-car display of the story of Easter and a wave from the Easter Bunny.
Common Ground Church, Sahuarita, normally holds multiple Easter egg hunts in the community, but, with the stay-at-home order, this was not possible. So, the church offered an Easter Basket Blitz instead. On Good Friday, the church delivered a basket of eggs and bags of candy to member families and included an additional set to be given to a neighbor.
On Easter Sunday, Common Ground offered Easter Jam, “an at-home digital Easter experience including engaging games, uplifting music, creative storytelling and follow-up discussion questions every family member will enjoy.”