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CONVERSATIONS: This Easter Weekend, Christians Gather To Worship -- Remotely

Photo courtesy Pastor Vance Rains.
Photo courtesy Pastor Vance Rains.

Christians are observing Good Friday today ahead of Easter Sunday, the holiest day on the Christian calendar when Jesus was resurrected.

Easter comes this year as the coronavirus is leaving many feeling isolated and alone. 90.7's Amy Green talked with Pastor Vance Rains of First United Methodist Church in downtown Orlando.

GREEN: Full disclosure, I'm a member of the church and my daughter was baptized there. How is the church staying connected despite the coronavirus and social distancing guidelines?

RAINS: Well, we're doing everything we possibly can. We had never used Zoom before, but now we're using it multiple times a day. I'm teaching a Bible study every day on Zoom. Sunday school, our youth ministry is all meeting on Zoom. And then our worship services, we've also been using Facebook Live. And we chose that mostly because there's opportunities for interaction in the comments, you know, it gets a little bit of extra mileage after the live portion.

GREEN: Let's talk a little bit about the words, "social distancing." One listener made the comment to me that we should be calling it "physical distancing," because we're social beings, and we are reaching out in all of these other kinds of ways. Whatever you want to call it, what does physical distancing or social distancing do to a person especially during a time like this when people really are afraid?

RAINS: Yeah, I think that's an important distinction between social distancing and physical distancing. There's kind of an impulse, I think, by all people who want to do good to reach out and connect and help. But the most helpful thing we can do for each other right now is not infect each other. So we've been extra vigilant about maintaining physical distance. But we're also extra vigilant right now about closing the social distance, so that, you know, we're not having to be physically present with each other, but we can find ways to be present in other ways.

GREEN: I mean, even at grocery stores, you're seeing markings on the floor, measuring six feet apart. What has been most difficult for you personally about the social distancing guidelines?

RAINS: Yeah, I think there's a lot of things that, I know there's needs out there. People I know need food. There's a lot of services that are needed that are just really difficult to provide right now that normally I think the church would step up quickly to do. Churches always do that in crises. But it's hard right now because if I pull a team together to do that, then they could be exposing themselves to each other. And then those we would want to help we'd be exposing them.

GREEN: Can you give us a sneak preview of what you'll be talking to the congregation about this Easter Sunday, a time of celebration that comes when many of us are feeling very anxious and alone?

RAINS: Yeah, hope is born in the midst of difficulty, that we don't hope for what we have, we hope for something that we have to wait for that that's going to come in the future. And that we are people of hope and that that ultimately is what the meaning of the cross and the empty tomb are. That we have reason to hope in the future. So probably right now it feels a lot more like Saturday when Jesus was in the tomb, and everything felt hopeless. But that we're Easter people. And even though that it feels like Easter Saturday, it's always Easter Sunday. That we have reason to hope that one day we're going to get past this. We're going to be stronger for it. We're gonna learn from it. And we're gonna come out on the other side.

GREEN: I've been speaking with Pastor Vance Rains of First United Methodist Church of Orlando. Thanks for joining us.

RAINS: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.

Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.
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