Easter is the most important Christian festival, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is usually a sacred time when families come together. But this year it will be a much more intimate celebration for the faithful. With South Africa under lockdown to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, church services have been suspended, along with most other activities.
Yet many churches are planning to livestream services online for congregants, while others have created WhatsApp groups to worship together.
The SABC and DStv have agreed to make room for a dedicated channel to broadcast Easter services, said Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications.
“People are heartbroken that they won’t be able to stand on the pulpit and do what they do best over the Easter weekend. These sermons will be streamed live for those who cannot go to church because of the lockdown. They can have church from the comfort of their homes,” she said at a media briefing.
The way believers worship will change, hopefully only for a short time, but, advises Christianity Today magazine, it is important to “hold tight to what is sacred and hold everything else loosely”.
Many churches are using technology to stay in touch with their congregants and to let them continue worshipping. These are some of the churches you can find online to attend an Easter service.
This Kempton Park church livestreams its main service, as well as Sunday school services, on their YouTube channel.
The church has pledged R1 million to help the poor during the Covid-19 crisis. Its founder and senior pastor, Reverend Chris Mathebula, said the funds, donated via the People Matter Foundation, would go a long way to help the poor.
If you miss these, you can catch the sermon between 11am and 12pm on TBN (DStv channel 343).
The church holds daily morning prayers in the lead-up to the Easter weekend.
These are streamed from 5am to 6am on their website, and on YouTube. There are also podcasts available.
Their online church was launched shortly after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of the emergency lockdown.
Services are livestreamed on YouTube and their website.
The Sandton church has told its congregation that church is not closed, only its buildings are. All their services are being streamed, including Sisters, Kidszone, Youth, Young Adults and weekend services with live worship and faith-building, fear-immunising teaching.
“It is up to us to stay plugged in and connected so we don’t miss a beat with what God is going to do in this season,” the organisation says. Find them on YouTube or download sermons from rivers.church.
The church launched its “On-the-line” campaign after the lockdown announcement, saying, “Sundays are looking a little different. We’re taking church on the line.”
Services can be streamed from their website.
The church usually celebrates with an annual mega conference at its headquarters in Thaba Nchu, Free State, but this year it will be livestreamed on YouTube.
All Christian families should commemorate Easter, says Pastor Kensly Ramahala of the church in Tembisa.
Their Easter Sunday service will be livestreamed on Facebook. Despite the difficult conditions in which we find ourselves, “it is important that Christians take the time to remember Christ during this time”, he says. “This will also give families an opportunity to introspect, soul-search and find where they are with God.”
The church will be sharing messages of hope and encouragement on Facebook and WhatsApp every Sunday during the lockdown.
Sharing communion is an important practice for many families, especially during Easter and local pastors have told DRUM there’s no reason families can’t still have Holy Communion at home.
Pastor Mojalefa Maluka of Uniting Believers Church in Marlboro, Sandton, says just because families are at home, it doesn’t prevent them taking communion. “We’ve encouraged our members to buy communion elements and to prepare themselves to take communion in their homes this Easter. This is an opportunity for family altars to be restored.”
A family altar is simply a space used to worship at home. Pastor Maluka adds that Christians should remember how personal the weekend is “and should make sure it remains sacred and purely Christ-centred”. His family will have a service at home which they will share with the congregation on Facebook.
“We will lead Good Friday from our home this year, with hymns and the word, then communion with those who will be watching.” Smaller churches in townships and rural areas may not have access to the same sophisticated infrastructure to reach their congregants, but they won’t be left out, thanks to social media and smartphone apps.
Pastor Peters Mathebula of Church Ablaze in Clare in rural Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, says their church is communicating via WhatsApp. “We’ve decided to use this lockdown time to network in prayer. Our members wake up for prayer between 4am to 5am every day. We’ve also encouraged our members to study verses from the Bible and speak faith instead of fear,” he says.