LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Easter this year looked very different for everyone compared to years past. Most services were streamed online, and some traditional pictures were probably not taken in new Easter outfits. In fact, most people probably attended church from the comfort of their couch. It’s the new normal we’ve come to embrace over the last few weeks.
Graves Memorial Baptist Church in Little Rock knew that Easter was going to be different. They wanted one tradition to remain the same, even if it required a few “tweaks” to accommodate the changes brought about by COVID-19.
“Stations of the Cross” has been a tradition at the church for six years now. Travis Matthews, who grew up at Graves Memorial and has been the pastor since 2002, said that it started by wanting to put more focus on the events of the Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday.
They wanted a family-friendly prayer experience for believers to use to teach their kids and others about the important sacrifice that Jesus Christ made. In the past, they’ve always held this event indoors where families could walk through the stations and have a hands-on experience. The pandemic changed things this year.
Instead of indoors, they used their horseshoe shaped parking lot to set up most of the stations. Two volunteers, who wore masks and gloves the entire time, put together bags filled with the interactive components that would’ve been used at the stations – things like a nail that would’ve been used for the cross, thorns to represent the crown of thorns, or rag soaked in spices like frankincense and myrrh that would’ve been used in typical burials of that period.
As cars drove up, they were given these bags and a disinfected iPad that they could use to read about each station and the items contained in the bags. At the end, each iPad was returned and disinfected properly before it’s next use. Participants kept the items for more lessons with their family at a later time.
Matthews said their turnout was higher than ever, something they did not necessarily expect to happen. Matthews said there were at least 135 who drove through, with more likely given the unique challenges in taking attendance in cars.
They kept interactions very minimal with volunteers wearing masks and gloves when exchanging iPads and making sure people stayed in their vehicles. Despite the required safety “tweaks,” this tradition and creative method for teaching the Gospel was actually strengthened and given a unique chapter in its history through the COVID-19 crisis. Matthews prays that seeds were planted with those who are not believers and came because of the unique presentation. It is incredible to see how God took a tradition created as a way for believers to interact more with the events of Passion Week was used to plant Gospel seeds to those who had never before heard the Gospel story.