Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Easter People speaking hope into darkness

The message of hope found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was proclaimed in people’s homes as Uniting Church members celebrated Easter in new and creative ways.

Christian Churches all over the world marked Easter differently this year responding to physical distancing protocols to keep people safe and slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 2000 Uniting Church congregations gathered as community while being physically apart with Easter services livestreamed, pre-recorded and shared as written liturgies and prayers.

Hundreds joined in the national livestream on the Assembly Facebook Page from across the country and in different parts of the world. The Assembly’s Transforming Worship circle has co-ordinated these services as an additional resource to the many local Uniting Church expressions of worship.

On Maundy Thursday, National Consultant Rev. Charissa Suli led a re-enactment of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet with her family at home.

Charissa described the foot washing as an “act of humility, servanthood and love” and a reminder that we are called to take up the way of Jesus. 

On Good Friday Assembly Theologian-in-Residence Rev. Dr Ji Zhang led devotions at 3pm, the hour of Jesus death. The service included Gospel readings in Chinese read by Ji’s wife, XiXi while his son Matthew played violin.

Ji reflected, “Jesus did not turn away from the cup of suffering. He has gone before us and embraced the Cross for us all.”

“Today the world is at war with the COVID-19 virus. And we must unite. We can fill the gap of social distance with neither fear, nor moral judgment, but leave it empty. This is the Cross that we all carry this Easter.”

On Easter Sunday, the national livestream was led by Revs Radhika and Adrian Sukumar-White from Leichardt Uniting Church in Sydney with online Holy Communion.

Ahead of Easter, the Assembly Standing Committee approved temporary guidelines for Holy Communion to be celebrated as part of online worship.

In his sermon, Adrian reflected on Mark’s account of the days after Jesus death, the empty tomb, and the message to the women, “he is not here.”

“Jesus doesn’t encounter us where we expect,” Adrian said “Jesus surprises us. Jesus surprises us out of a global health pandemic and sees us reconnect with the body of Christ outside the physical boundaries we have been restricted by. Jesus has gone ahead of us – to the uncomfortable, surprising places. And as his disciples, that is where we are called to follow.”

The changed circumstances of Easter this year also provided an opportunity for Christians from across denominations, cultures and countries to celebrate Easter together.

National Consultant Rev. Dr Apwee Ting led a Good Friday service and Holy Communion across three countries and time zones, Melbourne, San Francisco and Minahasa, Indonesia. He was joined by 20 families from the UCA and the Evangelical Church in Minahasa (GMIM).

“For me it was a very meaningful Good Friday because each of us was able to share their faith, trust and confidence in God in the midst of a very challenging time,” said Apwee.

In Darwin, two congregations shared in virtual worship on Good Friday, Karama Indonesian Uniting Church and Casuarina Uniting Church, with both English and Bahasa used throughout the service.

Rural Resource Minister for WA Synod Rev. Gordon Scantlebury shared the Easter message in his local township of Donnybrook by placing a poster for each station of the cross along a popular walkway.

Young people in the UCA connected with each other via The Easter Message, a project led by UCA Youth in VIC/TAS and the Pulse Team in NSW/ACT. More than 50 young people received more than 1,100 text messages immersing them in the Easter story.

“It provided them with an opportunity to think about how they fit into the Easter story and what it even means in the time of the Coronavirus,” said Steve Molkentin from Pulse and the Discipling the Next Generations Advocate.

In Wollongong on the south coast of NSW, Keiraview Uniting Church celebrated the baptism of its newest member, 10-year-old Maeve on the front lawn of her home. Led by minister Rev. Annette Hawken with buckets of water, it was screened to the congregation and friends and family via Facebook. Proud grandfather, Stuart McMillan, rejoiced in the new life promised to Maeve and all creation in Christ.

“Like so many things in these days we were separated by distance but connected technologically and spiritually.”

Rev. Charissa Suli also led services with Cecil Gribble Uniting Church, a Tongan community on Sydney’s northern beaches. She reflected on how online worship has added a whole new aspect to ministry for many.

“It’s not so much about how fancy the presentation is on screen or whether the technology can show bright lights or virtual backgrounds. It is about a group of people looking for connection with their God and their Church family.”

“May the Church continue to be a symbol of hope and love, reminding the world that there is life after death, and the light of Christ will always drive out the darkness.”

This Sunday, Rev. Ji Zhang will lead worship on the national livestream. Find out more



UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer’s Easter Message
Watch here
World Council of Churches leadership Easter Message
Read here