Pastors will tell you they count on a full church at Christmas and Easter Sunday. Except for this year. As we re-read the old story of those who discovered an empty tomb on that day of Resurrection, this year we will be discovering empty churches. Who knew we would be giving up church for Lent?
Easter Sunrise is one of my favorite services of the year. We look forward to gathering on the Neuse riverfront, as members of the three churches in Arapahoe gather to greet the dawn. There's something glorious about watching the sunrise up over the water while singing "Christ the Lord is Risen Today." After the service, we gather in the Camp Don Lee dining hall for a breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits, homemade biscuits and fruit. Let me tell you there are more than a few hallelujahs heard from those leaving. But not this year.
Worship includes the scriptures, messages, music, candles, and communion, but equally important is community. Try hard as we might, online worship just doesn't provoke the same experience.
Some pastors are innovating. On Palm Sunday, my pastor's wife, Lib, gathered those on our street to read the Matthew scripture of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem. Then she then led us, waving branches, in a parade - with the obligatory 6 feet of separation - to the top of the street. I've read of other services where the pastor stood on a front porch or sidewalk and preached, then neighbors sang, again careful to keep their distances.
There are more than a few complaining of cabin fever and we hear expressions of depression, anger, and fear growing daily. You can seek help by clicking on the following URL from the NC Department of Health and Human Services: https://www.ncdhhs.gov/divisions/public-health/covid19/managing-your-overall-health
. But other ways to deal with these issues are to take a walk or you could FaceTime or Zoom a family member or friend. In one neighborhood someone got a boombox, turned up the volume and invited neighbors to dance in their respective driveways. In New York, they open apartment windows and sing each afternoon at a prescribed time. Get creative!
How well are we doing staying at home? Not too good, according to Unacast, the leading transparent and contextualized location data platform. They've been tracking our mobility based on our cellphone location. Overall, they gave North Carolina a D- for staying in place. Watauga County did the best scoring an A-. Dare, Jackson and Swain counties received a B. Buncombe, Durham, Mecklenburg, and New Hanover got a B-. Clay, Orange, Pitt, Polk, and Wake scored a C, three counties got C-, and there was 60 with a D or D- score. 24 counties flunked.
Health experts repeatedly say the best thing we can do to defeat COVID-19 is to separate ourselves from others. A report released Monday predicted that our state could see 250,000 cases of coronaviruses by the end of May, down from an earlier projection of 700,000. Look for a continuation of the stay-home orders and we might even see curfews, as some communities have imposed.
These are hard times that leave us questioning when life might return to some sense of normal. The hard truth is that it might take years.
Surely this year, with all the sickness and death, financial loss and uncertainty we need some good news. We need the Resurrection Story this Easter.
Publisher's note: Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN
, a weekly statewide television discussion of NC issues that airs on UNC-TV main channel Fridays at 7:30pm, Sundays 12:30pm and UNC North Carolina Channel Fridays at 10:00pm, Saturdays at 4:00pm and Sundays at 10:00am
. Contact Tom at NC Spin.