"In the past two months, we have not been able to hold on-site gatherings to communicate and share with each other. However, we can still sing and praise. He lives, He lives, and He lives in our hearts." This was a message posted by the WeChat account of the Christian Jingling Church in Hongkou District on April 18 after Easter.
Due to the coronavirus epidemic prevention and control measures, churches all over Shanghai have gradually stopped in-person services since mid-March. From March 27 to April 1, Pudong and Puxi districts were in lockdown in turn. Daily increases of tens of thousands of asymptomatic cases and thousands of confirmed cases are drawing attention from the whole country and even the whole world.
In line with the epidemic prevention and control policies, Shanghai residents stay at home, hoping to achieve the dynamic clearing target as soon as possible. Unfortunately, due to insufficient supplies, being unable to go out for a long time, the high number of positive cases and the difficulty of acquiring food and seeking medical treatment, the Shanghai government and all residents are under huge pressure. This Passion Week and Easter were destined to be unforgettable for the churches and believers in Shanghai under the first-level prevention and control state.
Following official guidance and policies, churches in Shanghai have been closed, but are continuing their pastoral ministries with limited online methods. During Passion Week, many churches launched Holy Week Meditations. On Good Friday, some churches hosted a Good Friday meditation service, leading the congregation to meditate on the Lord's Passion through audio live streaming. On Easter Sunday, all churches launched online Easter worship services.
Shanghai Christian Jingling Church in Hongkou District published an article titled "This Week" at the beginning of the Holy Week. "This is an unusual week. On the first day, we should have started this week's narrative with palm branches... In this week, we should commemorate His greatness, almightiness, sacrifice and eternal redemption", mentioned in the text, "We can't be together, but that doesn't mean we can forget this crucial moment." It advised the believers, "Arise, live up to His words. Awake, kneel and pray together... to show those around that He is still alive..."
Huxi Christian Church and Xinjing Christian Church in Changning District launched daily Passion Week meditations series to share on a variety of themes such as "Palm Sunday", "Holy Monday", "Holy Tuesday", etc. Believers could also click the link "read the original text" to listen to the audio recording which met the needs of different believers.
During the Easter service held by Huxi Christian Church, the leading pastor first prayed for the people living under the epidemic, asking God to remove their confusion, anxiety, and doubts, so that they would not fear and tremble at the pandemic. Instead, they could find hope in Jesus and attain peace and joy with prayers. At the same time, he also prayed for the front-line prevention and control personnel, volunteers, and all the families, asking the Lord to give everyone daily food. Although they were isolated at home, they could find peace through union with God. The pastor pointed out that no matter what the reality was, "the promise of Resurrection is still with us." The sermon theme was also "Peace Be with You".
On Easter Day, the pastor of Xinjing Christian Church delivered the sermon titled "The Last Supper", which was shared on "Feast of Grace", "Blessing of Life", and "Woe to Those Who Are at the Table" as taught in Luke 22:14-23. He pointed out the five meanings of the sacrament: thank God for the redemption, examine one’s own behavior, do not forget one’s identity as New Covenant member, become a new creation united with God, and watch and wait for the Lord’s returning.
Christ All Saints Church, located in Huangpu District, pushed an audio recording of Good Friday meditation titled "Are you there?" on Good Friday. The whole meditation was divided into three parts led by different pastors, including "Bitter Cup Series", "Bitter Road Series" and "Bitter Cross Series". On Easter Sunday, the pastor first announced that this day was the day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and greeted the congregation with "Happy Easter". Then, they preached on the theme "Jesus was really resurrected", and prayed for those Christian brothers and sisters who were experiencing depression and pain, asking that the power of Jesus’ resurrection would protect everyone, and blessed more people with peace, which would become a beautiful testimony.
The Lord's Grace Church in Pudong District also launched an online meditation on Good Friday titled "The Precious Cross". On Easter Sunday, the pastor preached on "Christ has resurrected".
After Easter, Shanghai Christian Jingling Church posted on WeChat "Let's Sing Together", a total of 12 hymns, inviting all Christians to sing together. "In the past two months, we have not been able to hold on-site gatherings to communicate and share with each other. However, we can still sing and praise. He lives, He lives, and He lives in our hearts." It was written at the end, "Let's sing together now. Meanwhile, of course, we look forward to meeting again."
On April 17, Easter Sunday, All Saints Church in Shanghai pushed the Easter sermon message on its WeChat account, titled "Jesus is really risen" with the scripture Luke 24:36-43. The pastor pointed out that Jesus had won new life for us through his own resurrection, which began at the moment we believed in God and became His children. Colossians 3:3, " For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."
The Shanghai International Chapel, located on Hengshan Road, Xuhui District, remains closed due to the renovation project. Following the Passion Week meditations and Easter worship, it initiated online daily "watch" prayers for the pandemic to end as soon as possible.
During this unprecedented Easter, pastors in various districts in Shanghai carried out online pastoral care, and also led believers to participate in volunteer work with donations of anti-epidemic supplies.
"For Christians in Shanghai, Easter this year is different from the past. Due to the epidemic, all churches have suspended all activities. Instead, they participate in anti-epidemic efforts in different ways. God has entrusted to us this special mission that we continue to strengthen ourselves together with all Shanghai people,” said Rev. Geng Weizhong, chairman of the Shanghai Christian Council.
- Translated by Shuya Wang