Last Easter, Frederick Church of the Brethren lead pastor Kevin King addressed a virtual congregation from his backyard. This year, he delivered his sermon from the bandshell of Frederick’s Baker Park, facing a sea of masked worshippers donning their Sunday best.
“It’s a celebration,” King said after the service. “God has given us a beautiful day.”
Churchgoers rose from their seats, lawn chairs and picnic blankets to clap in rhythm with the praise team’s band. Beside stage left, a large black screen displayed the white-lettered words to songs. A few people raised their hands toward the sunny sky. A chilly breeze sent skirts dancing. Dogs circled their owners and wagged their tails. The bell tower’s ringing marked the passing of time.
The church could have held service indoors, but after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, King said they wanted to get outside and do something special for the day that represents when Jesus Christ rose from the dead after being crucified.
King told the Bible story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection, describing death as a new beginning instead of the end. A banner whipping in the wind read, “He who believes in me will live.”
From the seat behind his keyboard, director of worship and media Eric Byrd saw familiar and new faces gathered.
“Easter is a great day to celebrate,” he said. “We wanted to do it here for the community.”
Byrd said part of their church’s mission is to reach people locally and globally, so by holding Easter services outdoors they were able to connect with a wider audience. He estimated they had a few hundred people among the three services, starting with a sunrise service at 7 a.m.
Setup began the day before, and Byrd arrived at about 5:15 a.m. Sunday. Byrd credited King with having the idea to conduct Easter worship at the park.
Myersville residents Martha and Mark Hanak, members of Frederick Church of the Brethren, came with their dog Max. They watched the service from lawn chairs near the front of the crowd. Martha Hanak said it was the first time she’d been to church in person in a long time, due to the pandemic.
“This is very exciting, all these people coming,” Mark Hanak said.
The O’Hara family, of Frederick, aren’t regulars at Frederick Church of the Brethren, but mother Heidi said they were drawn to the outdoor service. She came with her husband Larry and daughters Lily, 8, and Lucy, 5.
“It’s nice to be able to see church in person,” Heidi O’Hara said.
Lucy said she likes the holiday because “we get to spend time with family,” and the Easter bunny comes.
“I like that we get to do Easter egg hunts,” and hear the story of Jesus, Lily said.