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Churches have a virtual Easter during the coronavirus pandemic
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Churches have a virtual Easter during the coronavirus pandemic

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ELKO — As the world settles in for another quiet weekend, many in the religious community are preparing for an unconventional celebration of one of the most important events on their calendar, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

“It’s weird how, for the first time in over a hundred years since the Spanish flu, that like the most powerful aspect of the local church is something we can’t do, you know the gathering, the physical gathering … especially at Easter,” said Nathan Hornback, pastor of Living Stones Elko.

“Typically, right now we would be tearing our building apart, packing up all of our gear. We would be getting ready to load it all into trucks and set up at the Convention Center,” he added. “Usually we have about 1,500 people come for Easter.”

But this year is a different year for all.

Because of the measures in place for the safety of communities during the coronavirus pandemic, many churches have transitioned to ministering via internet.

In Spring Creek, one such church is Ruby Mountain Bible Church. Pastor Jeff South said that while a few aspects of his ministry remain the same, such as his sermon content, the format for delivery has changed.

South routinely posted audio recordings of his sermons to his church’s website, www.rubymountainbible.com, but now he’s learning the “ins and outs” of livestreaming and videography. At his side, doing all of the “techie” work, is his assistant pastor, Daniel McCoy.

“My first recording— because we hadn’t figured out the camera part yet — it was just my voice and slides … that was harder for me to be very personable because I’m staring at a screen looking at slides, no people,” South said. “The livestream really helped because there was feedback; people were talking.”

When the social distancing measures began, South looked to Faithlife.com, a company that South was familiar with, to help transition to online streaming. RMBC was chosen by Faithlife to be one of 1,000 churches to help launch their system worldwide.

“They let us in kinda on the ground floor. And they said ‘Hey, there’s this new program; it’s called Faithlife Equip’… where they integrate about six or eight big things. Our first livestream was their first week of ever doing it, but they’re just really new at that, so they’re just not near as efficient as like YouTube that’s been doing it forever.”

He said RMBC is now livestreaming through YouTube, “but everything else, all of our communications and the slides that you see, that’s through Faithlife.”

Living Stones Elko chose to simply use its existing Facebook page, livestreaming services to its congregation and keeping those services as similar to normal as possible.

Hornback said one of the most impressive and proud moments he has had during this time is hearing about what his congregation has been doing to help out, from shopping for people who can’t leave their homes to taking lunches to the ER staff.

“Watching the church love and serve their neighbor in the midst of a social distancing mandate,” Hornback said. “It’s been encouraging to see the people get creative and still have a presence …and I’m watching the whole community do this, it’s not just us.”

In celebration of the holidays, Living Stones Elko was streaming a service for Good Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m. Their Sunday service will be streamed on the Facebook page at 11 a.m. They have things planned for the whole family.

For the end of the service, Hornback is working on a montage of Happy Easter videos.

“The service is gonna close with just this montage of different families saying ‘Happy Easter’.”

Not only are LS Elko and RMBC continuing to serve the community, but many other churches have begun to increase their virtual presence, using streaming services and creativity.

According to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church’s website, Father Joseph Walsh has set up a YouTube channel for daily readings and masses. To attend, visit “St. Joseph’s in Elko” on YouTube.

First Presbyterian Church of Elko is keeping up to date on their Facebook page, offering daily video devotionals.

Lynette Davis, director of public affairs for the West Stake for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “Easter is a vital part of what we do.” She said families are being encouraged to stay home on Sunday, enjoying family time and watching the broadcasts on BYU TV. Davis also said that “members are having sacraments brought to their homes on request.”

In remembrance of the worldwide crisis, she said: “We have been asked to fast, and any person to fast on Good Friday … It’s a worldwide fast, so that includes any person.”

Grace Baptist Church is offering livestreaming from their website, www.gbcelko.org. For Easter they are hosting a series of special services with the Frazor Evangelistic Team. The first meeting will be Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and then Monday through Wednesday at 7 p.m.

RMBC has cancelled its traditional Easter breakfast, a tradition that members have enjoyed for nearly 40 years. Instead, Pastor South will be going live at 10 a.m. To make the day “more special,” South said they are doing a virtual communion.

Despite the strange circumstances, South chooses to be encouraged.

“The opportunities that are springing up in our community, and then around the world, is kinda fascinating; that’s been encouraging to me.”

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