Protective mask? Check.
YouTube URL or Facebook Live link to share with parishioners? Check.
Video camera, virtual Easter egg hunt plan and vat of hand sanitizer? Check, check and check.
Welcome to the weirdest, wackiest Holy Week local faith leaders from Tolono to Tilton have ever experienced, one that’s already had Campustown’s Chabad Center for Jewish Life mail out 650 matzo packets for members to serve at Passover Seders and Tuscola Immanuel Lutheran Pastor Jason Braaten spend Good Friday Eve in a way he still can’t quite believe.
“Surreal,” he says. “I have never had, or attended, or contemplated officiating at a Holy Thursday service in which the Holy Communion was not offered.”
We reached out to 100-plus houses of worship this week to find out how things would be different (and collect masked selfies).
Here’s some of what we discovered:
11 A.M. TODAY
— Can’t make it to a Good Friday service on Facebook Live? Swing by the corner of State Street and University Avenue from 11-1 today and get a blessing to go from Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal’s Mother Beth Maynard and Father Caleb Roberts, who’ll be at that corner of Champaign for the full two hours, weather permitting.
— And for Rantoul area Catholics: If it’s been too long since your last confession, you can receive parking lot penance at a safe distance outside St. Malachy Church from 11-1 today.
Look for Pastor Joel Phelps’ car near the rectory garage — it will be the one with the driver’s side window open — and remain in your vehicle while you wait.
— This reminder for all Grace Church of Mahomet members: You have until noon to enter Pastor Andrew Powell’s most creative meme contest. “The winner gets a delivered meal from my wife and I,” he says. “I figure we can have some laughs, which are needed; get to support a local restaurant, and say hello to a church family — at a safe distance, of course.”
— Among the other friendly congregation competitions happening around the area: Champaign Holy Cross’ best Easter- and spring-themed chalk art contest (gift cards to the winners) and Urbana Stone Creek’s online #illbehomeforeaster challenge, in which churchgoers try to complete 16 activities, ranging from reading the Easter story as a family to sharing their best impersonation of Pastor Ricky Spindler.
3 P.M. TODAY
Live from St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, it’s the Rev. Robert Lampitt, whose Good Friday service will be picked up by the Diocese of Peoria and publicized to the 26 counties that make up the diocese. “It’s quite an honor,” St. John’s fourth-year pastor says.
ALL DAY TODAY
Coming to the homes of all members of Gibson City’s New Beginnings Christian Fellowship: congregant communion packets, “so everyone can participate in communion on Easter Sunday,” Pastor Nick Carlson says.
7 P.M. TODAY
Other area pastors — including the Rev. Dave Ashby, of Farmer City’s Trinity Community Fellowship — are asking their congregations to get creative when it comes to making services feel like every other Easter weekend.
“Unique to my church is the Lord’s Supper — communion service — we are doing digitally,” he says. “It is unique because we are not able to distribute to our folks the traditional ‘cracker’ and grape juice we use at our church building. Many will not have those items. Therefore, I have instructed them to prepare in advance by ‘feeling free to use anything in their home that reminds them that Jesus’ blood was shed and his body was broken for them.’”
Out this year: traditional Easter egg hunts. In: fun twists on the time-honored tradition.
— The Vineyard has a select number of goody bags ready to hand out to children in Urbana from 9-11.
— If you’re in Cissna Park and hear a horn honk outside between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., it’s probably United Methodist Pastor Molly Spence-Hawk letting you know that the eggs and fun pack you signed your child up for have been delivered. (She’ll do the same with the other church she pastors, Rankin UMC, on Sunday.)
— And from 8 a.m. Saturday through 8 p.m. Sunday, parents can shuttle their little ones around Hoopeston and see how many eggs they can spot (in front yards and on front doors), snap photos of and post on Facebook — a virtual Easter egg hunt presented by First Church of God.
By now, every regular at Champaign’s Meadowbrook Community Church should have received a small Easter gift left on their front porches, and every Muncie Baptist parishioner with an email address on file with the church should have gotten an attachment with Pastor Dave Garver’s written sermon so they can follow along during Sunday morning’s service.
6:20 A.M. SUNDAY
Up and at ’em, Mahomet United Methodist members. Your church’s service goes live at sunrise on Facebook and YouTube. But before tuning in, the Rev. Craig Sweet encourages members “to have a special breakfast, to do something a bit out of the ordinary as a way to celebrate the day, to dress for church — I’ll be wearing a tie — and then to share in Easter worship with us.”
9 A.M. SUNDAY
— Easter Sunday, Douglas County style: “The churches of Villa Grove are inviting churches all over the state to ring their church bells for one minute at 9 a.m. on Easter Sunday,” says Villa Grove UMC Pastor Sandi Hire. “Anyone want to join us?”
— Also happening at 9 sharp: History will be made in Danville, when the Rev. Steven Loftus presides over the first livestreamed mass at Holy Family Catholic Church; Flatville Immanuel Lutheran will host a one-hour, stay-in-your-car, drive-by blessing (“I will maintain a very safe distance,” Pastor Jim Lehmann promises); and Champaign First Presbyterian’s days-in-the-making service goes live online.
“We aren’t doing anything particularly creative,” Pastor Matt Matthews says. “We are trying to be authentic and intimate; when I preach, I’m sitting on the front pew looking right into the eyes of one parishioner that I imagine seeing through the camera, sitting on his couch.”
— It’s times like this that Scott Keeble is thankful for the top-of-the-line new building in southwest Champaign that will serve as the permanent home of Copper Creek Church.
No, the $5 million facility won’t be ready for services until summertime. But for the past few weeks, his congregation has been getting a sneak preview of what’s to come.
“When large gatherings were banned, we were able to take some of the video equipment for the new building and set it up in our rented office space,” Keeble says. “It has allowed us to do a lot of things with our livestream that we probably wouldn’t be able to try otherwise.”
10:30 A.M. SUNDAY
— Broadcasting live from the sanctuary at Champaign’s McKinley Presbyterian: versatile pastor Heidi Weatherford, who notes: “My spouse and I are both musicians, so we take care of a lot of the music.”
— Music will also be a big part of Easter services at Champaign’s Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist, where Pastor Keith Thomas’ plan is to turn parent-submitted photos of their kids “in dress clothes holding a sign representing the story of Jesus’ resurrection” into a slideshow set to sound and streamed on social media.
11 A.M. SUNDAY
“Come as you are. Stay in your car.” That’s today’s theme at Tilton’s Southside Nazarene, which for the third straight Sunday will hold a drive-in-style service, like Champaign’s Bible Baptist is doing 45 minutes earlier and 40 miles away.
That beautiful music you may hear at this hour comes courtesy of the Rev. Jason Schifo’s Community Evangelical Free Church of Mahomet congregation. “We’re challenging all our folks and those in our community to go to the end of their driveway at 12 noon and sing ‘Amazing Grace,’” the pastor says.
1 P.M. SUNDAY
After 11 a.m. services comes the best part of Easter Sunday for Scott Boyd, pastor of Champaign’s Temple Baptist: “We will be worshiping remotely via YouTube and then delivering Easter meals to our Conversational English Group students, most of whom are Chinese, and our awesome quarantined church members at the Eden Supportive Living Center.”