While Jesus’ Resurrection is at the forefront of any Christian Easter observance, this year’s holiday also provided another reason for many churches to celebrate; the opportunity to gather in-person for worship.
The following stories represent services throughout North America and beyond.
Transformation Community Church in Surprise launched Easter Sunday. Led by Rev. Jason Flowers and his wife, Renee, the couple began engaging in the local community in June 2020, with hopes of a launch soon after. The launch was postponed due to COVID, and the Flowers began to connect with people through service in the community and an online presence. Over 70 people attended the launch service, with three people placing their faith in Jesus. Flowers said, “Lives were changed, and hearts were transformed. Glory to God.”
The Table Church in Ridgecrest also launched on Easter Sunday. Rev. Tim Smith and his wife, Bree, after creating an online presence several months ago, were able to invite people with whom they had been connecting to their home that day. Nine families attended hearing Smith’s message, “Lost and found.”
Fredericton Journey Wesleyan Church in Fredericton, New Brunswick offered two services with a combined attendance well over 300. Rev. Matt Maxwell said, “My heart is full and so is the church, plus a great online crowd still watching.”
At The Ridge Church in Maple Ridge, New Brunswick, the morning included three baptisms, two of them children (which completed baptisms for one family). When asked what baptism means, one young girl said, “It’s a way I show God that my heart is open to him.”
West Head Wesleyan Church in Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia celebrated a baptism for a man who came to Christ last week. The church also hosted an Easter breakfast and a family event like the “Amazing Race.” In addition, Rev. Vince Robertson hosted the first in-person nursing home service at a local facility in 55 weeks.
Four Wesleyan churches (Brazil Lake Wesleyan, Port Maitland Wesleyan, Woods Harbour Wesleyan, Yarmouth Wesleyan [including Coastal Church, a multi-church site of Yarmouth) joined another denomination to produce a “combined, online-only, Good Friday service prerecorded at a coffee shop to bring the church together with one gospel voice.”
Rev. Mark Atkinson and the team from Eastview Wesleyan Church in Gas City hosted worship in the local high school basketball gymnasium. More than 400 people were welcomed with 12 people coming forward to publicly confess their faith in Christ.
Rev. Mike Weller and his wife, Elizabeth, launched Restoration Church in downtown Anderson with an outdoor service blessed by beautiful weather. Weller shared a challenging message and several people responded to his invitation for prayer.
“We at the Gardnersville Wesleyan Church (GWC) experienced an extra unction and anointing of the Spirit as we [ended] the 21 Days of Prayer and fasting with an explosive Good Friday service. [What followed was] an all-night tarry (vigil) on Friday night, bursting forth in an exhilarating Easter Service. May the victory won for us by our blessed Lord Jesus at Calvary continue to be the catalyst that will propel The Wesleyan Church of Liberia to greater growth this year!” said Rev. Daniel B. McGee, national superintendent of The Wesleyan Church of Liberia and GWC senior pastor.
Houlton Wesleyan Church in Houlton celebrated a huge kingdom win. Youth Pastor Matt Blackford said, “We did a youth Easter service on what the cross means to us as an individual. At the closing of the service, we had seven teens accept Christ for the first time and five recommit their lives to him. God is doing some great things with the youth culture in Maine.”
Several churches reported multiple baptisms: Impact Church in Lowell, Captivate Church, Central Wesleyan Church campus in San Diego, California, Radiant Life Church in Sturgis, The Story Church and New Life Community Church in Wayland, Whiteford Wesleyan Church in Ottawa Lake and Frontline Church in Grand Rapids.
Rev. Jason Holdridge, lead pastor at Impact Church, shared: “Something happened this afternoon that I wanted to shout from the rooftops! Hannah Schering, one our KidZone staff, was baptized this afternoon down at Stoney Lake. She felt compelled after the past baptisms to make her own testimony known and to be obedient to God’s tug at her heart. Tony, her husband, and our KidZone pastor, had the privilege of baptizing her. I’m so proud of her.”
Rev. Andy McCutcheon of Wesleyan Community Church in Shokan said, “On Saturday, my wife, Doreen, shared an impression that three people needed to place their faith in Jesus on Easter Sunday. At the end of my sermon, I felt a ‘tiny’ impression to share this with the congregation. (It was more like I didn’t hear that I shouldn’t share, so I went for it.) I invited people to pray to receive Christ and then to come forward and stand at the front. Two people came. I waited and stated that I felt like one more person was to come, and she did! Praise the Lord! A husband and wife in their late 40s and a 24-year-old young lady placed their faith in Christ.
“In addition, a missionary from Haiti whom we support, emailed me (prior to Easter Sunday) and asked us to pray for the nation, as well as fellow missionaries. She said people are afraid to go anywhere for fear of being kidnapped or killed and to pray for peace.
“We have two ladies from our church who had planned to go to Haiti for a mission trip. Because of COVID and other circumstances, this had not happened. One of the ladies mentioned to me that they were still hoping to go later this fall. With this in mind, I felt led to ask these two ladies to stand in for Haiti by coming to the front of the church. We stretched our hands out as a congregation and prayed for Haiti by praying for them.
“After the service, one of the ladies shared with me that a member of our congregation had just received an inheritance and wondered what she should do with it. When she saw the two ladies come forward to be prayed over, the Holy Spirit affirmed to her that she should give the entire amount to them for this trip. Taking a mission trip is something these two ladies have never done before, and they were blown away by the goodness, provision and affirmation from the Lord for this.”
Faith Wesleyan Church in Orefield held a drive-thru egg hunt. The community fire department partnered with the church by hosting the event on its property. FWC put together scenes for the kids that included themes like “Beauty and the Beast,” the Wild West and farm animals. Other scenes depicted the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ crucifixion and the empty tomb. At each scene, children received a prize, including a set of resurrection eggs that illustrated the Easter story.
More than 700 people attended. One woman said that while she’d heard the name “Jesus” before, she didn’t know he’d risen from the dead. She planned to read the Easter story in the resurrection eggs with her children when she returned home.
“The Holy Spirit was working through our volunteers, seeds were planted, and the community was shown the love of Jesus,” said Brenda Smith, FWC pastor.
Many churches in the state were relaxing the more onerous COVID-19 restrictions by Easter. For example, ALIVE Wesleyan Church in Central had a Saturday night service, three services on Sunday and more than 1,175 registered for an “Easter Jam Hop Thru” at the main campus in Central. Main campus events included crafts and games and a bag of eggs for kids to take home and hide, while the Pelzer and Pleasant View campuses held a joint Easter Jam at Mineral Spring Park in Williamston where 500+ people came through. They had crafts, activities, games and food and kids took home bags of eggs and candy with a copy of the Easter story from “The Jesus Storybook Bible.”
Oakway United Wesleyan Church in Westminster planned a sunrise breakfast with a devotional and baptisms. Oakway has been renovating the stage area and received an anonymous donation allowing it to be completed by Easter.
United Wesleyan Church in Easley had a Good Friday evening service and its usual three regular services on Sunday — one traditional, one contemporary and one in Spanish — with the Celebration Choir singing for the first time since COVID.
Nueva Generación in Duncan had a prayer chain from Thursday to Sunday with people praying at specific times. The church was opened for a late-night prayer vigil.
Carlisle Wesleyan Church in Chesnee made it all about the kids with fun events, and with Rev. Bryan Stepp reading the Easter story to them during the sermon in language they could understand.
Greenville Multicultural Church in Greenville opened the church until 10 p.m. on Good Friday to allow people to come and pray. They have been at capacity for several Sundays.
Graham Chapel in Cowpens had an Easter egg hunt on Saturday morning, which was its first real activity since the church was closed because of the pandemic. They also held Sunday morning service outside.
Pickens View Wesleyan Church in Pickens got creative and held a drive-thru Communion for Good Friday, gave kids Easter baskets to do their own hunt at home and held Sunday morning services.
Bethany Wesleyan Church in Moore had the Lord’s Supper on Good Friday. An Easter egg hunt for children with hot dogs, chips, cookies and dessert was held on Saturday. The church also had a “son rise” service Easter Sunday morning at 7:30 with a full breakfast, followed by worship.
Trinity Wesleyan Church in Central spent Easter in one of nearby Clemson’s under-privileged communities. “We’ve already established a relationship with them, which allows us easy access into the community,” said Rev. Mike McClung. In the past, Trinity would hold a huge event with music, a cookout and egg hunt. This year, candy and gifts were delivered to children on Palm Sunday weekend, providing the opportunity to invite the families to Easter weekend activities, including sunrise service.
Several churches held various services during Holy Week. On Easter Sunday, there were 28 salvations and two baptisms reported. Four more baptisms were scheduled for the Sunday after Easter. All churches reported an increase in attendance, in some cases, having the best Easter attendance in several years. The energy level was high, and many pastors were encouraged.
Two churches were launched in the last year-and-a-half. The latest, Simple Church in South Tulsa, Oklahoma, reported an Easter attendance of 479.
Perhaps some of the most exciting aspects of pastoring during the pandemic have been learning how to tap into the online world. The Tri-State District gave out over $56,000 in digital grants last year to help its churches transition to the digital world of online streaming. “Watching our pastors lead their churches to the online world, we believe, is part of the Great commission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20 to go into the whole world wide web,” said Rev. Devon Smith, district superintendent. “We are now living in a click and mortar world.”