Despite COVID-19, Easter will still have faith, fellowship, food and flowers

Churches are closed, family gatherings will be small and flower deliveries reduced this Easter because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Easter will happen. It will just look a little different this year.

Light from the stained glass windows is reflected onto empty pews in the St. Mary's Catholic Church sanctuary in Willmar. Easter celebrations will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — There is no shortage of catchy phrases or messages of grief to describe the 2020 Christian season of Lent and Easter, which has clearly been altered by COVID-19.

Some people joke they didn’t realize they would have to give up quite so much during the 40 days of Lent. Others say they will miss the Easter egg hunts and not being with family for a big holiday meal or buffet at their favorite restaurant.

For the devout, not being in church to experience the somber Good Friday services and the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday is a difficult loss for their spiritual journey.

Even for those who only go to church on holidays, the trumpets, the lilies, the cheerful greetings of neighbors and the bright colors of spring will be missed.

But churches, families and businesses are adjusting. Easter will happen and there will still be faith, fellowship, food and flowers.


It will look a little different this year, but it could end up being one of the most memorable and meaningful Easters for people, said the Rev. John Anderson, who grew up on a farm near Belgrade and now serves as bishop of the Southwestern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“My hunch is that in this odd, strange, disoriented holy weekend, God will show up and surprise people,” said Anderson.

Because the pandemic currently prohibits churches from holding gatherings, most pastors — even those from small, rural churches — quickly learned how to conduct services in an empty sanctuary for live or recorded broadcast on their websites and through social media.

That means people will still be able to see their pastor deliver an Easter morning sermon, but they will be watching from their living rooms.

“Across the synod people are going to have meaningful worship services in a context where they can’t communally gather,” Anderson said.

Father Steve Verheist, from the Church of St. Mary in Willmar, said Easter will be “very different and there will be sadness and loss” by not worshipping together in the same space. But he said he’s grateful for the technology that will still allow the church community to stay connected.

“It has been our saving grace to access those tools and technology so we can stay connected, even though we’re apart,” he said.

Drive-in service

In an effort to physically bring people together on Easter morning, the Assembly of God Church in Willmar is holding two drive-in services at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. in the parking lot.


After getting the OK from the Kandiyohi County health and medical team, the church put plans in motion for the service, which will include a combination of pre-recorded music and a sermon and prayer delivered live by Pastor Keith Kerstetter, who will be on a stage in the parking lot.

“As long as everybody stays in their car, we’re OK,” Kerstetter said.

Volunteers wearing masks and gloves will hand out worship bulletins to adults and bags of goodies and games to kids as vehicles drive into the parking lot. To further reduce contact, bathrooms in the church will not be open to the public, Kerstetter said.

The audio for the service will be broadcast through a local transmitter and available on car radios on 87.9.

Kerstetter said he was hoping for nice weather so car windows could be rolled down and people could hear each other sing along to the music, but the forecast for Sunday looks a bit blustery.

The typical Easter call and response is for a pastor to say, “Christ is risen” and people respond by saying “He is risen, indeed.” But Kerstetter said he will ask participants to also respond by honking their car horns and flashing their headlights.

He said this special parking lot service, as well as continued online services, are helping church members “have a sense of being connected” while being apart.

Food and flowers

Because of social distancing, Easter dinners will likely be small affairs.


McKale’s Catering in New London is offering a new take-and-bake service. Fully cooked — and chilled — Easter dinners and made-from-scratch pies can be preordered and picked up Saturday to pop in the oven Sunday.

Lisa Quam, who runs the business with her husband, Phil, said most of the orders have been for one to two servings. Even though people may be alone on Easter, they want a special holiday meal without having to shop for an entire ham and make a big pan of potatoes.

It’s the first time they have done this for Easter, and Quam said the response has been great — and so has the added revenue. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they have lost revenue because of canceled weddings, business meetings and school events.

But because McKale’s started providing meals on wheels in January to a number of towns in the region, Quam said they have recouped some lost revenue and have not had to lay off any employees.

Flower shops, which typically sell hundreds of lilies to churches and deliver spring centerpieces for Easter dinner tables, have also taken a hit this year.

Stacy Johnson, manager of the flower department at Cash Wise Foods in Willmar, said the loss of Easter and prom revenue — and concerns about Mother’s Day sales — has been difficult.

But she said people are buying flowers as a “pick-me-up” for themselves while shopping for groceries. Although their delivery service is currently suspended, Johnson said flowers can be purchased along with online grocery orders and brought out to vehicles.

Easter will look different this year, she said, but a touch of fresh flowers will make it look a little brighter.


Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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