Beach Congregations Gather Online

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A Most Unusual Holy Week

Christian denominations are normally preparing for the biggest week of the year this week, but COVID-19, which has changed just about everything else in our lives, has also impacted how churches will mark the holiest of Christian holidays.

Normally, special services are held each day beginning on Holy (Maundy) Thursday with a recreation of the Last Supper and the washing of feet. Good Friday memorializes the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ with Easter celebrating Christ’s resurrection, the centerpiece of Christian belief. Easter Sunday is one of two days, along with Christmas, where pastors can expect a pretty full house, but there will be no full houses of worship this Easter.

This year, as people huddle in their homes following social distancing guidelines, there is a faint echo of similarity to the Jewish Passover, celebrated this year from April 8 -16. The celebration of Passover remembers the Israelites huddling in their homes in Egypt, awaiting their deliverance from the Pharaoh and their long captivity as told in the Book of Exodus. Despite nine plagues, Pharaoh did not budge. The tenth plague, the death of the first born of all Egyptian families led to the release of the slaves. Israelite families were spared the tenth plague by following Moses’ instructions to mark their doorpost with the blood of a lamb, so that the plague would ‘pass over’ their homes. Cable television will be running several of Hollywood’s versions of Exodus this week.

Recognizing the need to reach out to those in need of reassurance during these ‘Stay at Home’ weeks, and in an effort to reach their congregations, all Island churches have arranged for online services.

“We might not be able to gather, but Easter will still come!” said Pastor Ivan Corbin of Beach United Methodist Church. “You are not alone,” he added, urging anyone who feels isolated and alone to reach out and participate in one of the many online services.

Pastor Steve Adkison of Chapel by the Sea Presbyterian Church agreed on the open door or open Internet portal policy, “All are welcome to join us,” he said. “Our services are for anybody and everybody!”

Here are the Easter week offerings of the six Fort Myers Beach churches.

Ascension Catholic Church

Catholic Holy Week services available online at dioceseofvenice.org and on the Diocese of Venice in Florida Facebook page, include the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 9 at 7pm; Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, April 10 at 2pm, followed by the celebration of the Lord’s Passion at 3pm; Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 11 at 8:30pm and Easter Sunday Mass at 9:30am April 12. Easter Mass will also be available on TV on Fox-4 at 10:30am. (Church phone: 239-463-6754)

Beach Baptist Church

Watch a live Easter Sunday Service with Pastor Shawn Critser at 10:30am Sunday, April 12 on Facebook (Beach Baptist Church). The service will later be available at beachbaptist.org Follow church activities on their Facebook page. (Church phone: 239-463-6452)

Beach United Methodist Church

Pastor Ivan Corbin will hold a Zoom Bible Study on Thursday, April 9 at 10am. Email him in advance at ivangcorbin@gmail.com for instructions on joining. Holy Week services that will be available on Facebook or the church’s website: beachunitedmethodist.org include a daily devotion; Holy Thursday Service created by the Southernmost Clergy group on Thursday at 5pm and Easter Sunday Service at 9:30am. The church will put out a wire cross on church grounds Sunday and invites the congregation and the community to stop by and add a flower or two to the cross, while following social distancing guidelines. Pastor Ivan said the cross is a symbol of hope. “We believe this pandemic will end; these flowers will bring this cross to life and remind us of the victory of the resurrection.”
(Church phone: 239-463-9656)

Chapel by the Sea Presbyterian Church

On Maundy Thursday, Pastor Steve Adkison will host a service at 7pm on their Facebook page (chapelbytheseafmb) and their website, chapelbts.org Easter Sunday service will be broadcast at 10am Sunday. A staff member is answering the phones from 9am – noon Monday – Friday. Call 239-463-3173 to reach them.

St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church

Pastor Rick Lund will offer an Easter Sunday Service at 9:30am on the church’s website, stpeterfmb.com The service will also be available on YouTube with the link available on the church’s website. (Church phone: 239-463-4251)

St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church

St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church stained glass art. Courtesy of St. Raphael’s.

Holy Week services are available at straphaelschurch.org, on Facebook and YouTube (5601 Williams FMB) Easter Sunday service will be available at 10am Sunday on their Facebook page. Their Wednesday Healing Service at 10am will continue via Zoom. Contact Pastor John Adler at 239-571-3600 for information on how to participate. (Church phone: 239-463-6057).