with Communications Coordinator Amanda Schumacher
Now that I'm an adult, Christmas and Easter are still special, but they do look a little different now. Three years ago, it was the first time I celebrated Easter missing a loved one--my grandpa had passed away a few months earlier. Two years ago, Easter looked different again--instead this time, we were joined by my nephew (and the first grandchild and great-grandchild in the family) and celebrated for the last time at the house my grandparents had called home for over 60 years. This year, Easter looks different yet again--instead of getting in my car and driving down to Grace, I will be celebrating it away from my family, alone in my apartment living room, while I monitor the live chat and live streams of our Easter worship services remotely.
Am I disappointed? Most definitely! My mom's birthday is on Sunday, and I haven't seen my grandma since before this all started. I also love a good Easter breakfast and the one at Grace is always top notch. But most importantly, I'm going to miss seeing all of you in your Easter Sunday finery, rejoicing Christ's victory beside you, hearing our breathtakingly verbose choir lead us in the "Hallelujah Chorus," and wishing you a joyous "Happy Easter!" in person. And I know, I'm not the only one who is going to miss this, or who is struggling with this whole stay-at-home-during-a-pandemic situation.
But you know what? That shouldn't stop us from doing what we can to celebrate it! Just because Easter looks a little different, thanks to modern advances in technology we can live stream our worship service, talk to each other via social media, and interact with other virtually. While I was thinking about this (and even discussing with some of you ideas for making Easter Sunday special and interactive with each other), I thought to myself "Hey, maybe I should write some of these ideas down and share them with everyone!"
So! With that said, below is a list of 10 fun ways to make Easter special this year, from online worship to virtual fellowship and everything in between:
1. Dress in Your Easter Best
I will be the first to admit, pajamas have become my outfit of choice for both work and worship over these past few weeks--it cuts down on prep time in the morning (I get to the office far sooner, and by office, I mean my living room these days), and minimizes the amount of laundry I have (okay, that is a lie, the laundry never ends and we all know it). Even pre-pandemic, my worship and work looks tended to be more casual. But, even though I spend about 97% of my days in jeans, I always strive to pull out the stops for Easter. Which is why this Sunday, I will be putting some make up on and donning my traditional Easter dress--and I encourage you to join me!
How? Take selfies. Take photos. Take videos. Tag Grace on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter--whatever is your social media of choice.
Use #easterbonnetbest or #e20gracemke so we can find each others photos and share them with one another.
2. Show Off Your Easter Brunch
I think we can all agree before statewide shut-downs, eye rolling at foodie pics on Instagram was a past time (even for those of us, like me, who are guilty of taking photos of their food just like everybody else). But now? Honestly I'm craving any and all ways I can connect with the outside world--and that means, while I will be working diligently to moderate live chat comments during the Easter service and helping troubleshoot behind-the-scenes, I will also be (hopefully) making another batch of French toast and sharing my creation online--and again, I invite you to join me in the fun!
How? Take all the foodie pictures and use #easterbrunch or #gracebrunchbunch to share them with Grace on social media.
I don't know about you, but I've been watching our online worship services on a variety of formats these past few weeks: my laptop, my phone, a combination of both. And I also admit, sometimes it's hard to pay attention--especially if I get a text or a Facebook message. Which is why, this Sunday, I'm going to watch the service on my television. With a large screen as a focal point in my living room, that will make the pastors life-size and I won't get interrupted by app notifications during worship.
Haven't given it a try yet? Easter Sunday seems like a great day to start as any!
How? For those of you with Chromecast and/or a SmartTV, you can cast our regular live stream feed directly from our YouTube channel and onto the big screen. Use #e20gracemke to share photos of you and those joining you to watch on social media!
Earlier this week, you may have spotted the super cool Easter-themed profile picture frames Pastor Strong shared on Facebook. I encourage all of you to add one to your profile picture and use it as a way to invite your family, friends, and followers to join us for Easter Sunday worship. There are lots of colors and styles available, too!
How? Either click the "Try It" button on the bottom of someone's post that is already using the frame, or click to edit your profile picture and select "Add Frames." Then, type "Easter 2020 at Grace Downtown" in the search bar to see all the different types of frames available!
In years past, I've loved hearing our Grace family wishing people "Happy Easter" after church or during Easter breakfast. There's such an atmosphere of joy, it just permeates throughout the Grace Center, coffee shop, and sanctuary. And just because we don't get to say it in person on Sunday, that shouldn't stop us from excitedly greeting each other with it!
How? Text 5 people you know from Grace "Happy Easter!" Don't have someone's phone number? Write it on their Facebook wall! Not friends with them on Facebook? Send them an email. You want to say it to their face? Request to video chat with them and say "Happy Easter!" verbally!
6. Have a Virtual Grace Group Meet Up
In the past few weeks, various Grace Groups have altered the way they enjoy fellowship--Book Club hosted an informal, virtual gathering via Google Meet, the pastors have used Zoom to meet with each other and Moms Group, and even the administrative staff at Grace had a six-way video chat via Facebook Messenger. I encourage you to reach out to your go-to Grace Group--RootedMKE, Sunday School parents, your fellow choir members, college students, small group Bible study companions--and set up a time after the live stream on Sunday to check-in with another.
How? Show off your Easter breakfast creations or toast each other with your coffee, and have the littles wish each other "Happy Easter!" Maybe have an informal Easter-themed Bible study, or play a board game virtually together! Don't have a Grace Group? Reach out to individuals you know at Grace and try to set something up anyway!
Staff Minister Drew Carter shared earlier this week a fun video challenge for Grace's youngest members, asking them about Easter--what's their favorite part, what happened, and why it's important. There is still time to take a quick video your kids answering the questions for the video challenge--ask before, during, or after dinner tonight!
How? CLICK HERE for a full list of questions to ask, and how to upload and share the video with Drew Carter.
Grace member Caitlin Voigt is working on some Easter-themed coloring pages for artists of all ages to download and color, but in the meantime if you have some coloring or crafting supplies on hand, get creative and show us what Easter is all about!
How? You could make-your-own stained glass window, like Pastor Strong's family did, or maybe draw one out of chalk on your sidewalk. The Brewers might not be playing (yet--I still have hope!), but if you have some poster board lying around, make a sign to place in your front window sharing the good news with your neighbors!
9. Show Us What Easter is All About - with Your Actions
How? Donate your excess dry goods (or toilet paper) to a homeless or women's shelter. Spring cleaning those closets? If you come across some gently-used pairs of shoes, save them for Grace in Action's shoe collection drive for Africa. Knitting like crazy to stay not only healthy but sane? Connect with Rachel LaMantia of Gracemade, who has been donating homemade masks to nursing homes and organizations around Milwaukee in dire need of them. Worried about a friend who struggles with their mental health? Reach out to them--ask them how they are doing, offer to FaceTime with them, share one of Grace's devotions with them, or send them a gift in the mail to show you are thinking about them.
10. Tell Your Pastor "Thank You"
Grace's pastoral team has been working around the clock to not only provide our church with virtual worship opportunities, but by offering encouraging devotions during this tough time, checking in with members, continuing to meet and discuss game plans for our church as it changes weekly and even daily, and being on call for prayer requests and inquiries from concerned members. Let's not forget our pastors are, like us, only human, and could be struggling with this pandemic just as much as we are.
How? Words of encouragement and thanks to them can go a long way. Send an email, a text, a card, a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant--say thank you to Grace's pastors for leading us during this tough time. And--if you can, if you are able--continuing to give your regular offerings to Grace at this time, either via mail or electronically, so Grace can continue to serve it's congregation and community to the best of its ability.
For now, stay home, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in wait for the joy of Easter Sunday morning!