Saint Barbara Parish incorporates 2021’s struggles in resurrection sermon
The Saint Barbara Parish at Mission Santa Barbara celebrated Easter Sunday with three masses. Last year, parishioners were only able to tune in online, but hundreds of attendees overflowed on the Mission’s lawn this year.
Father Dan Lackie, pastor of the congregation, preached about hope in troublesome times. He noted tragedies such as the violence against Asian Americans and the anxiety surrounding the trial of Derek Chauvin.
“In this time, shadows are covered by so many events that are painful and challenging,” Fr. Lackie told the News-Press. “But I think what we celebrate in the resurrection is the power to be moved beyond ourselves, even our fears, to engage with those situations.
“I think something that’s a gift that Disciples of Christ have to offer the world is particularly important right now: And that’s the energy of hope,” he said.
Despite the unsettling circumstances many are facing, congregants were cheerful. Many asked for pictures with Fr. Lackie after the service, some snapping selfies.
Mass lasted just over an hour, beginning with dainty hymns and hallelujahs piercing the morning air. The 9 a.m. service was simultaneously broadcasted online.
Last year, the parish only held virtual services, unsure about COVID-19’s spread.
“We didn’t realize yet last year, the potential of gathering outdoors. We were in a learning process last year. And I think we’ve learned from our experience over these last months that it’s possible,” Fr. Lackie said.
“It’s one of the things that’s happened as a result of COVID we may want to continue.”
White folding chairs, grouped into physically distanced clusters, made a semicircle around the stairs into the Mission. Many congregants were able to sit on the paved patio, some resting under the shade of a tree.
Attendees, dressed in linen suits and freshly pressed sundresses, filled the parish’s chairs until the seats were taken. Other families grabbed their personal beach chairs and picnic blankets to listen from the grass, some even bringing their dog.
The service began with a “thank you” for wearing masks and sitting six feet apart, a humble reminder that the pandemic is ongoing.
“I think what (the pandemic) does is it calls us to a sober reflection on the meaning of the resurrection. It makes it real, and it brings us to reality,” Fr. Lackie said.
“I have to say, that was precisely the situation of the early Christians. They were in the midst of tremendous persecution, tremendous upheaval with the fall of the temple in Jerusalem. They were trying to make sense of it,” he said. “And the resurrection was a sign to them that beyond, there is hope and that God is present always, in every place.”
Yoly Aumentado, a eucharistic minister (meaning she helps distribute communion), was joyful after the message. The optimistic sermon resonated with her, even after a challenging year.
“Having Easter to look forward to is so full of hope. I had some losses and lost my best friends in 2020 and then 2021, the early part of January and February,” she said. “But I always believe that Jesus is with us always weeping and laughing with us. In other words, there’s always hope.”
Her sister died in February, causing great grief. She worried for her son who lives in Boulder, Colorado.
And as a Filipino woman, the attacks on Asian Americans makes her nervous, but she says she tries not to dwell on negatives.
“COVID taught us so much. In other words, it’s not always in vain. There’s always a kernel of gold in there somewhere, if we can only open our eyes and open our heart,” she said.
Although she has mourned much in recent months, she still celebrated with a lot of positive energy Sunday.
The parish’s staff, aware of personal struggles in the community, collected socks Sunday for the Fr. Virgil Cordano Center, an outreach center that serves the homeless in the community. The Cordano Center was established by the Mission’s Franciscan Friars alongside the Daughters of Charity.
The center’s physical location has been closed since March 16, 2020, but staff mobilized to serve meals at various community parks. They will serve 200 hot lunches today.
Although Easter service was a celebration, it wasn’t out of touch with the somber realities of 2021.
“We can’t be afraid to engage with the realities around us — as disastrous as they may seem, as frightening as they may seem, we’ve got to go into those types of darkness,” Fr. Lackie said in his sermon. “The resurrection calls us to and it offers us something new there if we can stay tuned.”