Because churches must hold “virtual” services as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, we asked ministers in the Highlands to share their Easter messages with the community.
+ The Rev. Micah Coleman Campbell
Cold Spring/South Highland United Methodist
Every Easter, Christians celebrate the “empty tomb,” where Christ once lay, but no longer! This Easter, with most of us quarantined in our homes, many others risking their lives daily, and the pall of COVID-19 hovering over everything, the irony of the moment is not lost on me. How can we celebrate resurrection when fear and death are everywhere we look?
Not easily, for sure. Nor should we, falsely. Plastering smiles on our faces because we think we ought to be happy on Easter would only be a temporary fix. Easter is about something greater.
That’s why I want to linger on the unbearable time between Jesus’ death and resurrection. The disciples didn’t know what would come next or the joy that waited for them in the morning. They only knew their grief and fears. What hope they had, if any, likely came from their memories of Jesus — not just that he promised to return, but of all the times he brought forth life from death. When he raised Lazarus, yes, but also when he gave sight to a blind man, changed the heart of a tax collector, saved a woman from stoning, freed countless people from their demons and gave humble fishermen a greater purpose. Their past pointed to the Easter truth: that death does not have the final word. Life always comes after.
This Easter, I invite you to consider your own past, and recall the times when God delivered. Remember then, and trust that God will see us through these times, too.
A service will be livestreamed at 10:15 a.m. at facebook.com/fishkillumc.
+ The Rev. Dr. Doris Chandler
First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown
“Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He [Jesus] has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” (Matthew 28:7, NRSV)
Saturday, April 11, is Holy Saturday. As Richard Lischer writes in Christian Century, Holy Saturday lacks the Good Friday darkness of Jesus’s death and the glorious light of Easter.
On Holy Saturday, we wait. We wait while Jesus is in the tomb; but this year we also wait during COVID-19. We wait for ________. How shall we fill in this blank? Are we waiting for the apex or the flattening of the curve of COVID-19 cases? For those on ventilators to breathe again on their own? For the national news to report every health care worker has Personal Protective Equipment? For every person to be tested for COVID-19? For a paycheck? For the Mets and Yankees to throw the first pitch of the season? For gathering again in church sanctuaries? For physical and social distancing to end? For the hugs of friends and family?
This Holy Saturday we wait in the sheer silence of COVID-19, silence replete with fear and doubts, silence packing the potential to eclipse hope. Not so fast! Hear these words: “He [Jesus] has been raised from the dead and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”
Jesus goes ahead of us. When you bend the knees of your heart to pray, Jesus is already there. In every hospital and nursing home, Jesus is already there. By the bedside of a COVID-19 patient, Jesus is already there. On the medical ship anchored off the shores of New York, Jesus is already there.
First Presbyterian will participate in a service organized by the Hudson River Presbytery that will stream at 10 a.m. at facebook.com/hudrivpres.
+ The Rev. Bill Dandreano
Salem Tabernacle, Beacon
To the isolated, quarantined community: Grace and peace.
Last Easter, I realized something that has been giving me hope as we approach this coming Easter. Remember, the events that happened yesterday are often provisions for events soon to come. Last Easter, I read the Easter story in all four Gospels. I realized that in all the narratives of the resurrection, there isn’t a story that talks about Jesus coming out of the tomb, but solely stories about us going into the tomb only to find that it is empty.
This Easter, as we all live in isolation, broken off from routine, under the threat of disease, maybe even already suffering sickness or the tragic loss it causes, I realize what last Easter was trying to tell me. God invites us into the emptiness to show us that He now has filled that space with love. If you feel alone, hopeless, afraid, anxious or empty, please know God is to be found in those places we feel the most lost.
All the Easter stories tell of people running to the place that was meant for sorrow and death, and upon leaning in, they find that life can happen where death had full sway. Yes, people may pass away, and we will never understand that, but the “peace that passes all understanding” is that God has acted on death in such a way that death is now temporary. May Easter give us a hope that continues long after optimism runs out.
A service will be streamed at 10 a.m. on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. See salemtabernacle.com.
+ The Rev. Amanda Eiman
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Garrison
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Happy Easter and greetings. Easter, the season of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the most joyous time in the Christian year. This is the time when we celebrate that despite all logic, despite all doubt, three days after Jesus’ lifeless body was placed in the tomb and sealed, the tomb was found empty and Jesus was alive! And through his resurrection, we are reminded that this physical world that we know now is not all that there is, because God rose to new life; God conquered death forever. All of God’s people are promised new life.
The promise reminds us that there is more to come, and we will see one another again. The resurrection also reminds us that we don’t have to wait until we die to experience resurrected life — every day we have the opportunity to be transformed, to let go of old ways and grab hold of new possibility. Even in the midst of this pandemic, signs of new life are calling out to us. Spring is bursting forth before our very eyes. Communities are uniting. Creativity is abounding in the ways we teach our children, and in the ways we connect with one another.
In this tough time, I pray that the gift and hope of new life scatters some of the darkness around us. God always promises that it will. And may God’s peace and grace be with you!
+ The Rev. Tim Greco
The Church on the Hill, Nelsonville
German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer met with evangelist Billy Graham for coffee one morning. Adenauer had witnessed the suffering caused by the Germans and to the Germans during World War II and its aftermath. During Hitler’s regime, Adenauer was imprisoned for his opposition to Nazism. After the war, he assisted in the rebuilding of West Germany, serving as its leader from 1949 to 1963.
The chancellor asked the evangelist: “Mr. Graham, what is the most important thing in the world?” Before Graham could answer, Adenauer answered his own question. He said, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is alive, then there is hope for the world. If Jesus Christ is in the grave, then I don’t see the slightest glimmer of hope on the horizon.”
Christ dealt with the issue of man’s sin on the cross in what the Apostle Peter described as “the just one dying for the unjust.”
The Old Testament had foretold that he would be wounded for our transgressions, have the iniquity of us all laid upon him, and heal us through his stripes. Three days later, the resurrection was God’s “amen” to what Jesus had done.
The cross and resurrection also provide hope for everyone who will trust him. The perfect, innocent one was nailed to a cross, suffering the most savage form of death and humiliation known to mankind.
On that day, we see God in the hands of angry sinners. That blackest of Fridays, however, was transformed into Good Friday because of the resurrection. Therefore, God is more than able to transform our sufferings into glory.
During this time of tribulation in our world, I offer you hope that because He lives we can face tomorrow.
A service will be streamed at 10:30 a.m. on facebook.com.
+ Father Dan Callahan
Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, Garrison
Self-denial and discipline are the hallmarks of Lent practiced by Christians united in preparation for Easter joy. They are now being shared by people of every race and language, religion and way of life as an enforced necessity to prevent and contain the COVID-19 infection.
The self-denial and discipline we’re called to employ involuntarily unites us in a shared purpose with people of all nations. But for all to be united in these efforts with spiritual awareness, gratitude and mutual regard for human dignity calls for a shared prayerful awareness among all peoples.
We, as a church, have a gift in our faith to bring this shared consciousness to all, confident that God is with us in the midst of the struggle, suffering and death brought about by this disease. In Jesus Christ, we find our hope. He, God’s only son, exposed himself to our human struggles, injustices and suffering. He died and rose from the dead.
Easter is the celebration of this. Even if we cannot preach it directly, our shared attitudes of peace, patience, compassion, generosity and love grounded in faith can transform our personal struggles into the compassionate power that unites us in the shared purpose of giving life.
As Franciscan Friars of the Atonement — spoken “At-One-Ment” — we invite you to pray with us this Easter through Jesus Christ, who prayed at the end of his human life: That all may be one, that the world may believe.
Graymoor does not have a public service planned but has posted a COVID-19 healing Mass at atonementfriars.org.
+ Pastors Ricardo and Marilyn Pacheco
Tabernacle of Christ, Beacon
In a season of unprecedented circumstances, sickness, fear, anxiety and loss, the message of hope is one that we can hold on to. John 3:16-17 teaches us about the ultimate sacrifice of love for all humanity.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
As we take a moment to reflect on the message of Easter, we commemorate the sacrifice, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who now sits in his throne, at the right hand of God the Father, interceding for you and for me. In the midst of all we go through, Jesus invites us in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
As we all face the pandemic of COVID-19, we lean on the hope that this too shall pass. Let us draw closer to God and lay down our burdens. Let’s stay connected with our community and demonstrate love to one another.
A service will be streamed at 10 a.m. on Facebook and YouTube. See tabernacleofchristchurch.com.
+ The Rev. George Mangan
Christ Church United Methodist, Beacon
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12 NRSV)
These last 30 days or so have been a struggle. Who knew what COVID-19 was a few months ago, yet today it is all over the news. Certain words that are spoken bring a sense of foreboding: virus, infected, quarantine, mask.
Our schedules have been turned upside down. We can lose sense of time as we count the days in what seems like house arrest. We become more fixated in regard to our own health and that of family members. Personal relationships become strained as no more than two people can congregate together and “keep the 6” becomes a way of life. Wake me up when this is over!
Yet, as they say, “it is darkest before the dawn.” If Easter can tell us anything, it is that we believe in a God who constantly and perfectly loves us. Nowhere can such love be found than in our God, who conquered sin and death through the life of his son, Jesus Christ. Because of Easter, we have become a renewed people of the resurrection. We live our days knowing that we are not alone, because God’s spirit lives in our hearts. We have been given the promise of a life lived in God’s love today and for eternity. No longer can sin or death separate us from God’s love and his purpose for our lives. Truly, the grace of God is with us.
Why is this important to us? The promise and hope that God has gifted us makes all the difference. No matter how crazy, confusing or tiring a day might become, we know that God is beside us and hears our prayers for help. Moreover, most important, God loves you. The same love that many of us sang about as children — “Jesus loves me, this I know.”
And as the Apostle John said in his Gospel, Chapter 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believed in him would have eternal life.” Easter reminds us that tomorrow is a new day. We can live it in despair or in love. As God loves us, we are called to love. Easter people, take charge of your day knowing that you are loved by God. As the dawn rises, let the confidence of God’s love guide all that you do.
A service will be held at 10 a.m. via freeconferencecall.com. Call 605-313-4427 and enter access code 242300#.
+ The Rev. John Perez
Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, Beacon
This invisible enemy, COVID-19, is impacting all of our lives. We’ve never seen anything like this. The entire world just stopped. No more sports, commerce is slowed, and physical distancing is the norm. Despite all that is going on, hold on to hope. We are resilient and have confidence that we will come out on the other side.
How can we be so confident? Simple. Our hope lies in Jesus!
It’s amazing how the words in the Bible are coming to life. The prophet Isaiah foretold centuries ago that, “In His name the nations will put their hope.” The time has come. If you are going to cope with your reality, you have to put your hope in the right source.
Jesus came, he died, and on Sunday, we celebrate that he rose again to give us access to eternal life. Are you ready to meet your maker? Have you made the decision to follow Jesus? As you prepare for a very different kind of Easter this Sunday, let’s remember that Jesus is the hope of our salvation. In him lies our hope to cope!
A service will be streamed at 9:45 a.m. on Facebook. See ftbeacon.org.
+ Pastors Leilani Rodríguez-Alarcón and Josue Alarcón
Salvation Army, Beacon Citadel Corps
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though they may die, shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26, NKJV).
During this time of uncertainty and chaos, we cling to Jesus’ words and have hope, knowing that ultimately He is in control of everything. We have hope in the certainty that Christ is alive, and that through Him, we can have peace. It is our prayer that you may feel God’s love and peace surround you during these uncertain times, and that you will know how loved you are!
A service will be streamed at 11 a.m. via Zoom and Facebook. See facebook.com.
+ The Rev. Steve Schunk
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Cold Spring
These past several weeks, we all have faced an unprecedented period like none we have ever imagined or experienced in our lifetimes.
As our medical experts advised, civil leaders have implemented physical-distancing restrictions and isolating regulations designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and prevent the overwhelming of hospital and health care facilities, and to keep us all safe and healthy.
While for our protection and safety, this physical distancing and shelter-in-place quarantine can and does feel restricting, limiting and isolating, which leads to feelings of depression, despair and hopelessness. As a Christian community in the Episcopal tradition, we will gather together online to share in common prayer expressing our fears, laments and hope, knowing that we are not alone.
We also remember the scriptural events of the Holy Week and Easter, spanning 2,000 years, that are at the core of the Christian message:
■ Unfair and even unjust disappointment, pain and suffering are part of our human condition;
■ Our God promises to accompany us on our journey through this suffering and uncertainty;
■ As we come to trust God on our journey, we learn valuable things about ourselves and about God; and
■ God, in God’s time and way, brings us all through to the other side — in joy, peace and celebration — in perfect and unconditional love.
A service will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Zoom. See stmaryscoldspring.org.
+ The Rev. Ben Larson-Wolbrink
First Presbyterian Church of Beacon
Easter — that hallmark of spring — won’t be the same this year. We will be missing favorite hymns on the organ, sanctuaries full of flowers, and seeing old friends at services. Even if Christianity isn’t your thing, you might be missing Easter egg hunts and family dinners.
Life in the midst of a pandemic has thrown us all for a loop. Some are exhausted essential workers. Some are on furlough, wondering if jobs will be waiting when it’s time to return. Some are stressed with family and school pressure at home. Some are lonely. Some are grieving loved ones who died alone. Most are scared, if not for ourselves, at least for someone we love. All are wondering when things will return to normal.
The life of Jesus Christ — as well as his death and resurrection that we celebrate on Easter — was anything but normal. It reveals to us that wherever there is suffering, God is there. It gives us hope that death does not have the final answer. On Easter, we celebrate that God’s love changed everything, even though the earliest followers didn’t understand it right away. The truth is, we’re still trying to understand this mystery.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it. This year, there’s more darkness than the traditional pastels. Maybe that’s good news …
May Easter come alive for you this year, not in spite of the pain, but because of it. May it be so.