Message of Hope: Houses of worship in Cape turn to broadcasting, streaming services
From the darkest of days – hope.
That is at the heart of the Easter message and this year is no exception at churches across Cape Coral.
With the strong “social distancing” recommendation in mind, a number of churches have turned to broadcasting or streaming services on TV or other forms of social media and, on Sunday, will so give the faithful an opportunity to celebrate the most holy of Christian holidays through an Easter service.
Some churches made the change ahead of time.
Cory Demmel, pastor at Cape Christian, said they already have a strong online platform, with interactive livestreaming every week, though it wasn’t used as much as it is now.
“When the pandemic hit, we were ahead of the game. Now, our team is energized because there is a lot of innovation and creativity. We can now offer everything online,” Demmel said. “We have repurposed everything where our time and resources are going.”
Demmel said Cape Christian usually holds five services every weekend and holds eight on Easter weekend. This situation will allow them to do something creative because they don’t have to replicate everything due to capacity issues.
“We’re filming a three-day Easter series that mirrors the Easter stories you follow in the Bible. We’re doing one on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and putting it together to create one story,” Demmel said. “We can tell the story in a creative way instead of rinse and repeat eight times.”
At St. Andrew Catholic Church in Cape Coral, Father Lawton Lang said the Archdiocese of Venice has always had a strong visual presence and that will continue on Easter.
“We will be streaming the 9 a.m. Mass on Easter from St. Andrew, and there are other streaming Masses and Liturgy available on our website at standrewrcc.org,” Lang said, adding that Masses with the Bishop and Pope are also on the website.
At Cape Vineyard Community Church, in the South Cape at 923 S.E. 47th Terrace, they will offer Easter services at 7, 9, and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday with a twist. Attendees will park in the Club Square parking lot, in every other parking space to ensure social distancing, for drive-in services.
“We know that this season has been extremely difficult for many in our community,” said Co-Founding Pastors Kim and Jamie Stilson in a statement issued Friday. “Easter is a celebration of hope and life, honoring our risen Lord. No matter what your history has been, Jesus accepts you just as you are. Even though everyone will be in their own cars, it will still be a great time to worship together and celebrate all that God has done for us. Come as you are, stay in your car.”
A to-go style hot breakfast will be served to all those who wish to receive breakfast through a drive-thru station prior to parking.
“The Cape Vineyard believes that the church is called by Jesus to care for those around them, so they are continuing to focus on feeding people both spiritually and physically,” the release states.
Services will still be streamed to their Facebook page and website for those who are unable to attend the drive-in.
Pastor Van Garner of the Church of the Nazarene in North Fort Myers said they will hold Easter service via streaming, which the church has done since the area shut down as the new coronavirus spread through the state.
It has been a huge adjustment for him, since it was all new.
“I’m used to talking in front of people, so preaching with nothing but a camera is different,” Garner said. “I have an Easter sermon, but we’re not going to do musicians because of distancing and some of our musicians are over 70.”
The lack of live services has impacted the church financially.
With tithes down about a third from what they were before the pandemic, Graner has had to tighten the belt but the holiday will be celebrated.
“People have been generous in mailing in tithes. Even at that, it’s hard for a lot of people. They’re saving money for anything that comes up,” Garner said. “We’re blessed, but it’s made a difference. We’re down to the bare essentials.”
Churches that have traditionally gone big for Easter can’t do so this year.
North Shore Alliance Church in North Fort Myers has held its Passion Experience since 2012 and an Easter Egg and breakfast hunt Sunday morning.
Those will not be held this year.
All services and ministries are closed until further notice, while their Wednesday Night Prayer will continue, with only to first 10 being able to attend. The Sunday morning service will be at 10:45 a.m. on the church’s Facebook Page.
Those of Christian faith are not the only ones celebrating a holy holiday now.
Jews are celebrating Passover, which began Wednesday at sundown and continues until nightfall on Thursday, April 16.
Passover opens with Seder, the ritual service and ceremonial dinner on the first night of Passover. Usually a huge gathering, this Seder will be celebrated only with family.
Rabbi Yossi Labkowski of the Chabad Jewish Center said instead of the communal dinner, worshippers got their Seder kits in a box so they can celebrate in their homes.
“We would get more than 100 people here to celebrate Passover with the traditional food and prayers. Now, they have to do it from home,” Labkowski said. “We gave them instructions and prepared everything for them.”
Labkowski said they have taken precautions regarding the illness, such as no formal services, but stressed that everyone still needs to stay connected with each other.
“We believe in physical distancing, not social distancing because the social part has to continue. That’s how we’re going to get through this,” Labkowski said. “Everybody is doing services on their own. We do classes for the kids on Facebook Live or Zoom.”
“Passover is a celebration of freedom. It’s a state of mind and we have to leave the limitations we place ourselves in and we have great potential that we could connect with God,” Labkowski said. “It doesn’t have to be in a certain place. We can make our home into a synagogue and a place for God to rest.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include information provided by Cape Vineyard Community Church.