We won’t forget this Easter in a hurry. No crowded church services, no singing of triumphant hymns, few family gatherings, and no one searching for Easter eggs. The restaurants are empty, the coastal path closed, tourists absent, only police patrolling the streets, medics tending the sick, scientists searching for cures, shop assistants selling essentials, and politicians making decisions they do not want to make. How can we celebrate when everything we normally do at Easter is forbidden by law and presidential decree?
But maybe this Easter is more like the first Easter than we think. There was nothing normal about that first day of the week when a few anxious women in Jesus’ inner circle went to the tomb to anoint his body with oil. Jerusalem, despite being crowded for the Passover, was in virtual lockdown following the crucifixion of three rebels for sedition. There were Roman soldiers everywhere, even guarding the tomb. But the women found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.
Explain it as you will, believe, doubt or scorn, the event clothed in mystery, would soon change the course of history. Roman emperors re-wrote the calendar, dividing it between before and after this event, much as we will speak in years to come about the time before and after the pandemic.
But whereas this epidemic is spreading disruption, fear and death, the message of the first responders to the risen Christ was that love had triumphed over evil, that the weakness of the cross had confounded the power of despots, and that a new day of hope had dawned, not just for the followers of Jesus but for the world.
In a world scarred by poverty, injustice, abuse, war, plagues and fake news, Easter speaks of the rebirth of life after the horror of death, the rekindling of hope in the midst of pessimism fueled by fear, and the possibility of building communities bound together by love made evident through acts of selfless kindness, courage and compassion. We don’t need all the trappings of a “normal” Easter to help us get the good news message. “Normal” Easters too often cloud our vision, preventing us from grasping the awesome truth that Christ is risen amid a chaotic world and despite the power of evil.
If this pandemic does nothing else, may it focus our minds on how we live, what really matters, and the kind of world we should be working for. For Easter is not primarily a religious festival, it is the beginning of a world-changing, hopeful movement of justice, peace, human redemption and the renewal of creation. The truth is, Easter was never meant to be what we think of as normal. How could it possibly be when you remember how it all began.
Online Easter services
Christian worshippers all over the world will be unable to come together as communities of faith this weekend to celebrate Easter, a time when church pews are usually overflowing. The annual Passion Play at the Old Harbour in Hermanus is also a long-standing tradition which will not be taking place this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This is especially hard to bear in a time when we are more in need of solace and hope than ever before. However, while church doors are closed, this does not mean residents need to miss out on the traditional Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. Almost all local churches will be broadcasting their services via their websites, Facebook pages or on YouTube.
For those wanting to watch the various services, here are the details:
NG Kerk Hermanus:
Livestream at 09:30 on Friday and Sunday. The services can be followed at avlmedia.co.za/hermanusngk
NG Kerk Onrus:
Streaming at 08:30 on Friday (communion service) and Sunday. Visit ngkonrusrivier.co.za and click on the YouTube icon.
Livestream at 10:00 on Friday (communion service) and Sunday via Facebook at RainChurchHermanus.
Stream at 09:00 on Friday and Sunday via Facebook at AGSHermanus and YouTube (Visit agshermanus.co.za and click you the YouTube icon).
Livestream at 09:30 on Friday and Sunday on Facebook at ShofarHermanus or visit shofaronline.org and search for Hermanus by clicking on the ‘Visit a Church’ link.
Every Nation Church:
Recordings of the services will be posted on Facebook at Every Nation Church Hermanus.
Our Lady of Light Catholic Church Hermanus:
Videos of services are uploaded daily on Facebook at Our Lady of Light Catholic Church Hermanus.
Livestreaming Friday at 09:00 on Facebook at CRC Hermanus and on crc.org.za. On Sunday services will be livestreamed on Facebook at 08:30, 10:30 and 18:00.
Videos of services will be posted on Friday and Sunday on Facebook at United Church Hermanus and on uchermanus.com