Alaska churches improvise avant-garde Easter

    From drive-in services, online worship and heavily sanitized prayer walks, Alaska Christians are preparing to celebrate Christ’s triumph over death and sin amid the dark shadow of COVID-19.

    With Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s announcement that churches could hold outdoor parking lot services, some faith-communities are planning open air Easter events. Most others are opting to go entirely online.

    Four Mat-Su churches pooled their resources to host an Easter celebration at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

    Pastor Jason Daughtry at Lazy Mountain Bible Church announced the worship service via video.

    “We’re all going to come together and we’re going to worship Jesus,” he said. “The best news is that the government has given us their full approval as long as our cars are parked six feet away.”

    Participants are required to stay in their vehicles while listening to the service live on Legend’s Radio 100.9 FM.

    “It’s been really hard for all of us to stay home and hunker down,” Daughtry said. “We’re excited.”

    Leading up to Sunday, some Alaskans are holding events on Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

    Juneau Christian Center is advertising an Easter egg drive-through celebration from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday and some Anchorage and Kenai Catholics are planning unofficial, lay-led Good Friday processions with guidance from the state on how to do so with proper health and safety measures in place. That includes face masks, loads of hand sanitizer and six feet of separation.

    Anchorage Baptist Temple is holding three drive-in services on Easter Sunday – each one accommodating up to 200 cars.

    Today, our church can live stream; it’s not the same, but it’s something.

    “Easter 2020 is a bit different,” the church’s website states. “Although a little out of the box, our parking lot service will be pretty similar to watching from home – but in your car. At the beginning we will spend time singing a variety of worship songs. After worship, you will hear a message from Pastor Ron on the story of Easter; followed by a time of reflection and prayer.”

    Most Alaska churches, however, including all Catholic, Orthodox parishes and hundreds of Protestant and Evangelical communities are physically closed for Easter. These churches will utilize digital technologies to reach their quarantined flocks on a day that Christians hold to be the holiest of the religious calendar. These platforms allow pastors to connect face-to-digital-face with the faithful.

    “Aren’t you grateful that this COVID-19 pandemic didn’t happen 20 years ago?” Pastor Derek Dickinson of Journey Christian Church in Fairbanks wrote on his blog. “Today, our church can live stream; it’s not the same, but it’s something. As individuals we can Facebook, Skype, zoom and email. Technology is a remarkable help right now to safely allow at least a form of human connection.”

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