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Rockville Centre churches find new ways to celebrate Easter

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Easter will be very different this year. The Christian holiday is the holiest of the year, with additional services offered almost daily throughout the week. The faithful tend to spend multiple additional hours in pews during this time, but social distancing guidelines have forced both churches and their parishioners to adjust. In Rockville Centre, churches have been offering services virtually for the past few weeks and people are making it part of a new Sunday routine.

“Our parishioners have been very appreciative,” said Father Kevin Morris, reverend of the Church of the Ascension, an Episcopal church on North Village Avenue. “Some families sit and watch Mass together, just as if they are going to church. I think it’s important for them to keep some kind of routine in their lives, and weekly worship is part of that ritual.”

Morris has been recording his Masses at home, then editing the video, adding music, posting on the church’s website and emailing the video to parishioners.

“It’s a lot more work,” he said, “but I’m grateful we have the type of technology to do this.”

Even more difficult, however, is the social aspect. On average, about 120 people attend his Sunday sermons. He, like all preachers, is accustomed to looking at the faces in the room and seeing their reactions.

“I miss the personal connection,” he said, “so I’m really thankful for responses I get from parishioners.”

The church has also turned to the Zoom videoconferencing app for the occasional coffee hour where people can socialize. Instead of the Easter egg hunt this Sunday, a Zoom “coffee hour” will take place, and the Easter Bunny is scheduled to make an appearance.

“It might bring some smiles on Easter Sunday morning,” Morris said.

Pamela Heywood, who has been a member of the church for the past 12 years or so, and serves as the senior warden, said she has been impressed with the online services. “The services Father Kevin has put out there are unbelievable,” she said. “It really feels like I’m in church.”

Heywood has been participating in the church’s “coffee hour” through Zoom, which she said has been catching on: the first week had six participants, and the following week had more, including families. “It’s great to be able to see faces and hear voices,” she said.

At Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, parishioners have also been tuning in to the live-streamed services. Pastor David Grainson said he has seen a gradual increase in the number of viewers over the past few weeks.

“Faith is important to people, especially now,” Grainson said. “The message particularly resonates this Easter; the power of God is to bring hope and light into a situation that seems hopeless and unending.”

Aside from the online services, he said it is important to have a concrete celebration. On Palm Sunday, a group of about a dozen cars joined in a caravan to spread joy to home-bound parishioners. Another one is planned for this Sunday, with people donning Easter hats and bonnets while joining in the caravan.

“It’s easy to forget the joy of the season in the midst of all that’s happening,” Grainson said.