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Church Leaders Adapt Easter Sermon For Pandemic Times


Today, church leaders celebrated Easter Sunday with sermons tailored to the somber realities of the coronavirus pandemic, streaming live from mostly empty sanctuaries. We'll listen to a few of those messages - from Washington's National Cathedral, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear from the Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and the Reverend Ginger Gaines-Cirelli of Foundry United Methodist Church, also in Washington, D.C.

But we'll begin with this morning's Easter message from Pastor Tim Phillips, who leads the First Baptist Church in Seattle, the epicenter of the initial outbreak of coronavirus in the United States.


TIM PHILLIPS: This is my Easter question. What kind of new life can come out of all this emptiness? Will staying at home teach us something new about ourselves and our connection with the world? Will our empty streets teach us something new about our impact on the environment? Will our empty offices and restaurants and factories and stores teach us something about economics?

I hope to God that as a people, we will not squander this time by not taking seriously this opportunity to see what our economic system is doing to people and to imagine a new and more just way to be.

GINGER GAINES-CIRELLI: Perhaps we yearn to discover at the place of Easter one who will give us courage to cling to hope right now, when the challenges and bad news and suffering exponentially grow.

JD GREEAR: You know, this quarantine - what it's revealed to me is that the four things that I think I most love in life are, No. 1, eating out at restaurants, No. 2, actually gathering together at church, No. 3, anything deemed non-essential by the government, and No. 4, touching my face. I flipping love to touch my face. Seriously, just saying that right now makes me want to touch my face. The point is, our circumstances this year find us in a much different place to celebrate Easter, but our message is still the same. It's Easter Sunday.

MICHAEL CURRY: Churches are empty. There's no sight or smell of lilies, no children dressed in new clothes for Easter day. When I was a child, I remember that all the women would come to church with hats, white and pink, flowers and fruit adorning them - none of that today. But when it happened in those days, it was Easter.

The song says it this way. (Singing) He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got the whole world in his hands.

God love you. God bless you. May God hold us all in those almighty hands of love. It's Easter. Amen.

GJELTEN: That was Bishop Michael Curry. We also heard excerpts from the Easter sermons delivered today by Pastor Tim Phillips, Pastor J.D. Greear and the reverend Ginger Gaines-Cirelli. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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