CAPTION: The Bishop of Exeter and churches across Devon are broadcasting Easter services online

“Rainbow of hope” as Devon’s churches offer wide spectrum of Easter worship

Posted: 9th April, 2020

The Bishop of Exeter has drawn on the image of the rainbow as a symbol of hope in his Easter message as Christians across Devon prepare to celebrate Easter weekend at home rather than in church buildings.

All churches are currently closed as part of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions but church services, meetings and social gatherings are continuing online through platforms like Zoom, Facebook, Youtube, Stableyard and via phone.

Bishop Robert has recorded an Easter Sunday service that will be broadcast on the Diocese of Exeter website and social media channels at 1000 on Easter Sunday.

A child holds up a rainbow drawn as part of an online church family activity

He said: “This is the strangest Easter I have ever experienced. The shops are shut, the Cathedral is closed and so are churches the length and breadth of England and that’s unprecedented.

“And yet, despite all the anxiety, what I feel this Easter is a deep, profound, hope.

“I was amazed when I saw on the news pictures that children have drawn in order to decorate the new Nightingale hospitals.

“The dominant image children have chosen is that of the rainbow. In the Bible the rainbow is, above all else, the symbol of hope.

“I feel the rainbow, which is created when sunlight refracts through raindrops, actually speaks to where we are at as a nation.

“This Easter there are many people who are crying. People are sick, loved ones are sick, some of them dangerously so. People have died.

“And yet, through those tears, what is coming through is love and care and compassion being refracted into a multitude of goodwill in our communities.

“I have been so impressed by the avalanche of goodwill, people responding to the national call for volunteers to help our health service at this time.”

He said the people delivering medicines to neighbours and doing their shopping or phoning people who are isolated and worried “speak of hope at a time of great national crisis.”

He also said on Easter Sunday when Jesus’ followers barricaded themselves into a room because they were so frightened was similar to the way some people might be feeling now.

“Like the Disciples, we’re in lockdown too. We are frightened to go out in case we might catch something and those fears are not unreasonable.

“And yet, in spite of our locked hearts, the Easter Christ comes into the inside of our lives, like he did for the Disciples, and says ‘Peace be with you’. “

Services are being broadcast from living rooms and kitchens

As well as the bishop’s Easter service, there are a multitude of other services which people are being invited to take part in from the comfort of their own homes.

The Reverend James Grier, Diocese of Exeter Mission Enabler and leader of Unlimited Church in Exeter, said: “Many of Unlimited’s members are university students who disappear home for Easter and we never get to celebrate the most important part of our faith with them.

“This year we get to celebrate Easter together no matter where people are in the world. Not only is this an exciting new opportunity for our church to gather, but being on Facebook means that people who would be wary of coming to church get to have a glimpse of what Sundays look like for us and what better day than on Easter Sunday?

St Matt’s Church Exeter and St Matt’s Church Plymouth, which also have a large number of young people and students attending regularly, will be livestreaming services on Youtube and Facebook.

Sherford Community Church will be livestreaming their Easter service, complete with a digital Easter egg hunt.

St Michael’s Church, Alphington, will be laying on an Easter afternoon tea event on Zoom with games and bingo.

St Andrews Church, Ashburton, will be broadcasting a recorded service which will include the blessing of local Easter gardens and songs recorded by church members in their own homes.

St Petroc’s Church in South Brent will be doing a live service via Zoom. Their vicar is the Reverend Professor Gina Radford, the former Deputy Chief Medical Officer and a current advisor on public health guidelines for churches.

The Teign Valley and Haldon Mission Community will be doing a live service over the phone. The congregation there is largely rural with some people not on the internet.

The Brentor Church community on Dartmoor usually stages a Way of the Cross walk on Good Friday, this year they will be re-creating it with online images and commentary instead.

Some Christians will be holding a “phone church” on Easter Sunday

Exeter Cathedral will be broadcasting live services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday via its Facebook page.

At 8pm on Easter Sunday church leaders from across the South West, including the Bishop of Plymouth, will be joining together online to pray for people in the region.

The event is being hosted by Rediscover Church in Exeter, which has been livestreaming its services for a number of years.

James Grier said: “We believe that prayer really does make a difference and what better day to gather to pray than the day we celebrate Jesus Christ conquering death and rising to life.”