Looking for Easter services in Aspen? Find a screen
Stay-at-home orders mean Christians in Aspen and elsewhere will be attending Easter Sunday services not at their preferred houses of worship, but on their preferred screens for viewing.
Three of Aspen’s churches are located in the West End neighborhood — Aspen Crossroads, Aspen Community Church and Christ Episcopal Church. Yet the Victorian-style neighborhood, also home to the Wheeler/Stallard Museum that used to host the children’s Easter egg hunt, won’t be peppered with churchgoers donning springtime attire or eager youngsters looking for eggs this Sunday.
Instead, the churches’ sermons will take place on such online mediums as Facebook and YouTube.
“When I signed up to be your bridge priest, I was very much looking forward to celebrating Holy Week and Easter with you in person,” wrote Father Steve Ayres in an online message to congregants of Christ Episcopal. “Sadly, that is not to be this year, as we are all wisely staying at home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Our spiritual disciplines are limited to watching stripped-down services on the internet, personal prayer, and if you are like me, taking long walks around Aspen.”
Holy Week at Christ Episcopal, which includes a noon Good Friday service Ayres will lead on the church’s Facebook page, culminates with an 8 a.m. Easter Sunday service on the same platform and a 10 a.m. service on the christchurchaspen.org YouTube page.
Ayres also said while the Eucharist — the consumption of bread and wine commemorating the Last Supper — can’t be celebrated online because internet communions are not sanctioned, “I would like to bless some other Easter foods that we could symbolically share by eating at the same time. I am suggesting that we bless the fun foods found in Easter baskets, Easter eggs, chocolates and jelly beans. (BTW, I hear that Carl’s has a large stock of Easter candies as no one can go into the store and be tempted by their displays. Life is tough now. I encourage you to splurge at least for a day with lots of Easter candies.)”
Crossroads Church Aspen will hold its Easter services at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. The services can be accessed by visiting http://www.ccaspen.com and clicking “Watch Live,” which will take users to the church’s YouTube channel.
“At this time, all church services will be held online only,” said the church’s website. “We would still love to support you in whatever ways we can during this time. Please reach out to us with any prayer requests or needs at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The doors are also closed at Aspen Community Church.
Early Thursday afternoon, its Methodist pastor, Jerry Herships, was putting the finishing touches on his Easter message, which he said will be available on YouTube by 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Key search terms are “Jerry Herships” and “Aspen Community Church.”
Men and women of the cloth, Herships said, are learning quickly about downloading videos on YouTube or holding serviced on Zoom. His online messages have drawn up to 300 views, Herships said, noting that figure dwarfs the size of the 25 to 35 people who typically attend his services in person.
Herships said he’s not doing online services but instead borrowing a page from FDR and his “Fireside Chats” radio addresses.
“I don’t need all of these bells and whistles,” he said. “I just need to look into the camera and tell people it’s going to be OK.”
The communal aspect of church has been lost during the pandemic shutdown, he said. Gone are the hymns and hugs, the stain-glass surroundings, the post-service coffee-and-snack gatherings. But perhaps that void is prompting churchgoers to focus on why they go to church in the first place.
“It’s going to be bare bones this year,” Herships said, “and I don’t know if that’s a bad thing.”
At the nondenominational Aspen Chapel, Nicholas Vesey said he and his family will try to bring home the fellowship by hosting a Zoom reception following the 9:30 a.m. Easter service, which will be conducted from the church with a livestream broadcast at aspenchapel.org. and on its Facebook page.
“Everyone will make their own coffee and jump on Zoom,” Vesey said.
The church, located off Castle Creek Road, traditionally has hosted its Easter day service atop Aspen Mountain, which churchgoers access by taking the Silver Queen Gondola.
Vesey has experience in livestreaming services — Aspen Chapel has done it the past six years — and will have the support of his wife, Heather, who with their children, Jessica, 14, and Samuel, 16, will participate in the online service.
“It’s quite interesting, because normally we sort of go through the motions,” he said. “We have Good Friday and we think about Jesus’ suffering and we move to Sunday and it’s the resurrection, but now it almost feels that Good Friday is still happening and Easter looks like it is months away, and how difficult it is for one to access the Easter experience when all around there is so much suffering. It is difficult from that perspective.”
Vesey said the church is staying active in the community during the health crisis. Its website has resources for coronavirus information, and both Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock and Mayor Torre have joined its Wednesday virtual sessions.
St. Mary Catholic Church will hold its Mass of Resurrection on its YouTube channel at 10 a.m. Sunday. The church also plans to set up the stages of the cross outside from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Good Friday, weather permitting, according to its website.
The church also has literature in PDF form for its parishioners to use during its online services, including “Celebration of the Word” for Easter Sunday, which is introduced with the remarks, “This is a celebration of the Word to aid your worship this Sunday, alone or with family. If possible, place a simple cross or crucifix prominently in the room and light one or more candles. You can also place an image of the Virgin Mary there if possible. As a family, choose the one who leads the prayer, and someone to do the readings.”
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