For the last 23 years, thousands of people have gathered at the Courthouse Sunken Garden for Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara’s Easter Sunday worship service.
This year the program is going to look a little different, thanks to COVID-19.
“It’s just kind of become one of the staples of Santa Barbara, you know, Easter is going to happen at the Sunken Gardens at the Courthouse,” Pastor Tommy Schneider said as he gestured towards the garden and pointed out where the stage, bands, activities and crowds were, during past services.
“We had chairs all across the green grass areas all over everywhere as far as you could count like the biggest wedding you’ve ever seen.”
But the show must go on, even if Pastor Schneider had to do a bit of scrambling.
The hour-long Easter service will be streamed online at calvarysb.com and broadcast on KEYT at 10 a.m.
“On a normal Easter, we would close off Santa Barbara Street and Anapamu Street. We’d have kids’ activities and Anapamu Street became a hospitality street and there’d be fresh coffee and fruit and pastries all along this street here. So when people came in they could have fellowship and all free,” Pastor Schneider said.
That hopeful message of spiritual redemption through Jesus Christ is more important than ever according to Pastor Schneider, who says Calvary Chapel will continue to find creative ways to get its message to the local and global community.
Pastor Schneider has streamed services on Wednesdays and Sundays since the stay-at-home orders became effective.
“We literally have people all over the world that watch, people from Istanbul. I have a buddy that’s in Istanbul; he tune’s in. That’s the fun one and all across the state, Colorado, I mean actually every state we have people that check in and watch regularly.”
Sunday’s Easter live stream will feature music from Christian singer Adam Cappa, scripture readings and a sermon by Pastor Schneider.
“The title of the message is going to be ‘Love Lives’ and really surrounding the portion of scripture in (the Gospel of) Mark Chapter 16 when Mary and some of the disciples take a look inside the tomb and see that it’s empty and realize that the love that they’ve had for this one, Jesus of Nazareth, and the things they’ve seen–the miracles and the hope and the love that came from him, the fulfillment of prophecy; they’re now going to see that he didn’t die, he rose again and in that there’s life everlasting. So that when we look into the tomb, we realize that love is not dead. Love lives and we can live in that ourselves if we know that,” Pastor Schneider said.
He continued that people may be distressed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but he encouraged them to find strength and confidence in Christ’s love.
Calvary Chapel digital manager Kevin Shrout added that he believes Christ protects us both physically and spiritually.
“The most important thing for us is that Jesus and his resurrection is preached and shared and told to our city and our community because we believe there is saving faith in Jesus Christ. If you believe that he died and that he rose from the dead and he did it for your sins, then you’re saved. You have eternal life with God. That’s the purpose, that’s why we’re here,” Mr. Shrout said.
More than 50 church leaders have also been calling church members on FaceTime to check in on them and maintain the community connection. Mr. Shrout said members have been sending in photos of their families gathered around the computer for Zoom calls or to watch services online.
“Our congregants have learned how to do Zoom (video calls) pretty well and Google Meets. There is, actually every single day, content being uploaded to our website that is fresh and new and encouraging as well as times for people to meet on the computers at home. And you know what’s fun, it’s the senior citizens, watching those guys try to figure out how to get on,” laughed Pastor Schneider.
“I’m one of them really, because I can get on and can’t figure out how to turn it off. ‘I’m sorry; I can’t get out of this meeting.’”
For more information visit calvarysb.com, where a promotional video for Sunday’s Easter service is available.
Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara’s Love On Mission is connecting volunteers to those who need grocery deliveries, help watching the service live streams and prayers.
To volunteer or register for assistance, visit https://calvarysb.com/love-on-mission.