Happy Easter Tuesday! Like all Holy Weeks, last week required a lot of physical and spiritual energy. But, of course, this year it was of a different kind. Like all pastors and congregations, we were changing and abbreviating our traditional worship services in order to do them by teleconference. In our case, we were also searching for YouTube recordings of traditional anthems and organ pieces along with recordings of contemporary music of the season. Wondering if the technology will do all we hope it will do is anxiety-producing. Our Zoom Easter morning didn’t cooperate as we hoped, but it wasn’t a disaster.
Easter afternoon, the results were rolling in on Facebook as pastors and parishioners were reporting in about their Sunday experiences. It’s a time of creativity and challenge, for sure. I was so touched when I came across my friend, Jane’s, Facebook post about her Easter service experience. The service at her church went as planned, but not so for her dad. Jane and I met in 1980 when I came to serve at her church as her father’s seminary intern. We’re the same age, and Jane was just starting her career in the church music division of Augsburg Fortress. She’s still there! Andy was the church organist. He and Jane got married a few years after I was at that church in Philadelphia. Andy remains a full-time church musician in a congregation. Jane’s Dad, Wolf, was a pastor from whom I learned much. I have remained friends with Jane and Andy all these years and was able to visit Wolf this summer when I was in Milwaukee for the ELCA assembly. That’s us in the attached picture.
On Facebook (and with her additional permission), I share Jane’s Easter story here:
“My father, a retired Lutheran Pastor, age 94 lives in Milwaukee at Luther Manor retirement home. Luther Manor like most senior centers is locked down pretty tight. One of the few times in his life he was unable to attend any services during Holy Week. Even the in-house channel had broken so no virtual service from the chapel. My father is a brilliant man, theologian and fluent in 7 languages. But the computer is just not one of those languages. Between my brother’s efforts and my own, we spent 3 hours to get him to click on links to my service, his service, National Cathedral, something, anything…He was quite distraught at not having Holy Week and not being able to get his computer to do what he wanted it to do.
This morning I came up with plan C. Andy and I would go to church and FaceTime dad from there and deliver the full service to him. Called him and told him the plan and he was quite excited.
He dressed in his best suit and clergy collar and had hymnal and bible ready to go. And yes, if I initiate a FaceTime call, he is able to answer it.
Andy played the Prelude and we were off. Substituted a German hymn for one we did in our virtual service. Dad read the lessons, I did the prayers, and best of all Pastor Laura had left her sermon out so I read that too. Sang “Christ ist erstanden” and had dad do the Benediction. Andy played postlude. It may have been the best Easter service ever and I’ll always remember it.”
While it’s true that Easter is here and Easter comes, without our human efforts, for many of us, the scriptures, hymns, sermons, and prayers are how we receive Christ and praise Christ. To not have these tools for praise and thanksgiving just snuffs out a little candle in us. We need the community around us, too, because Christianity has always been a group effort.
Sometimes the technology is frustrating, it lets us down. Sometimes our pastors and other worship leaders don’t do what we hoped they would do. Like Jane, we’ll have to come up with a Plan C. Before this is over, we may get all the way to a Plan Z. We’re going to learn a lot in all this and many of us probably won’t go back to everything as normal. I hope not. That would mean we haven’t learned anything.
The Holy Spirit uses times such as this to mix things up, teach a still more excellent way, and transform us. I don’t know what all that looks like yet but I’m anxiously awaiting new revelations. Alleluia, Christ is risen!