TAMPA BAY AREA, Fla. — Local churches are having to get a little creative when it comes to holding Easter services in the middle of a pandemic, but many of them are still finding ways to celebrate.
For the first time in history, church pews won’t be packed with people on Easter Sunday.
“It’s totally and utterly new, and it seems very weird to be coming to a church with just two or three others,” said Father Gary Dowsey Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dunedin.
Like so many others, Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dunedin is holding its services online.
“We’ll be live-streaming. We hope to connect to people’s hearts and the joy of this great Easter day, which is a day of hope,” said Father Dowsey.
While different, the church understands the importance of keeping its congregation safe, while also holding a service during one of the most religious times of the year.
“The church is about community, it’s not about a building,” said Father Dowsey.
In Tampa, the Grace and Faith Church is holding a live-stream and a drive-up Easter service.
“The people are getting stir-crazy. They want to come out and have church,” said Robert Scarallo, Senior Pastor of Grace and Faith Church.
They’ve rented a parking lot large enough for hundreds of cars to come out and celebrate.
“We’re encouraging people to bring communion emblems so that right there in their car, we will all break bread,” said Scarallo.
While Governor DeSantis’ safer-at-home order doesn’t prevent churches from congregating, the Grace and Faith Church is working with law enforcement to make sure they do it safely.
“If the constitution gives me the right to assemble and to have worship, I’m not going to do it in the middle of a forest fire,” said Scarallo.
Which means, for now, the Grace and Faith Church will be holding their services outside their building.
Mayor Jane Castor is urging everyone to continue practicing their faith, but to do it virtually this year. In a statement she said:
“Our places of worship have shown incredible resilience, adaptability, and strength—providing hope to our community in a moment of darkness... Because of coronavirus, many church pews, synagogues, and mosques will be empty for the first time during religious holidays — but that doesn’t mean these groups aren’t celebrating. We are learning to celebrate in new ways—including at home, over the phone with loved ones, via live streaming, and even in our cars for drive-up service. I am so proud of how our faith organizations are working together to uplift our community’s spirit while keeping us safe.”
The River at Tampa Bay Church, which made headlines two weeks ago for livestreaming services that showed people standing shoulder-to-shoulder inside their church building, posted online that they have plans to hold a livestream service.
Here is a list of some of the churches holding Easter services in the Tampa Bay area:
- Our Lady of Lourdes Church is livestreaming services at 9:30 a.m. and at 11:30 a.m. You can also watch the 11:30 a.m. service on ABC Action News.
- Grace and Faith Church is livestreaming and holding a drive-in service at 10:30 a.m. The address for the drive-in location is 13902 W. Hillsborough Ave. in Tampa.
- Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg is livestreaming a service at 10:00 a.m.
- The River at Tampa Bay Church is livestreaming a service at 9:30 a.m.
- Radiant Church is livestreaming services at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m.
- St. Andrew's Episcopal Church is livestreaming a service at 10:30 a.m.
- Pinellas Community Church is livestreaming services at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 1:00 p.m.
- Park Place Church is livestreaming a service at 10:15 a.m.
- St. Benedict Catholic Church is livestreaming a service at 10:30 a.m.
- St. Scholastica Catholic Church is livestreaming a service at 10:00 a.m.
- First Baptist Church of Tampa is livestreaming a service at 10:45 a.m.
- Legacy Christian Church is livestreaming services at 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
- St. Joseph Catholic Church is livestreaming services at 6:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
Many churches in the area are holding similar services. We encourage you to check each of their websites individually for more information on Easter service times.