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Churches Prepping for an Online Easter

Old Farmers Almanac

In the third and final installment of his series on the coronavirus’ impact on Holy Week, WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody reports on Easter preparations at one of Pensacola’s largest churches.

Easter at Olive Baptist Church – like many other churches this Easter – will not be the large affair of previous years.

“We’ll have a very small team and we’ll work on a few things that may enhance the weekend a little bit; but our worship will be online, just as we’ve done the last two weeks,” said Pastor Ted Traylor.

“Many of us are livestreaming and doing that every week, but it’s a secondary broadcast; some doing television/radio as we do,” Traylor said. “But the main thrust is always the live service and now we don’t have that.”

But Traylor won’t preside over Easter services alone at Olive. Musicians will be in the sanctuary and will do a set, and he says shorter services can be more beneficial, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll hold extra services.

“[When] we do a shorter service we find that less is more with these particular presentations,” said Traylor. “But yeah, they’ll be doing music. We may do something in a sunrise setting; that would be a short snippet. But our live services will be at 9:30 and 11.”

It was another Southern Baptist preacher – Billy Graham – who was among evangelicals that pioneered the use of the latest technologies to spread the Word – and was one of the first to embrace the Internet. Graham, says Traylor, was cutting edge.

“Not so much with broadcasting preaching as he was with movies early on -- the ‘big screen’ as he would call it, said Traylor. “Taking all the tools that we would have at our disposal land using those to the glory of God and the furtherance of the Gospel.”

In preparing for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic – whenever that may be -- Traylor says they’re making a couple of plans – one short-term, the other long-term.

“We know we’re going to be online at least up until Mother’s Day, looks like; and then there’s a possibility that it could stretch beyond that,” said Traylor. “And with that then we have to look at a lot of our summer programming and how we do that. And we’re still learning and talking to a lot of people. But we are making some plans to put those things together.”

One Olive Baptist program that’s ground to a halt because of the virus is their hospital ministry. Traylor says they cannot get in to visit patients, so they do the next best thing.

“We do a lot of stuff with the families, and texting and calling; ZOOM calling a lot with some of the people that are able to do that,” said Traylor. “On a regular basis we have funerals; and I’ve only had one death in these last two weeks that we’ve had to deal with." 

Credit Olive Baptist Church
Olive Baptist Church Pastor Ted Traylor

Thanks to COVID-19, churches have to change their protocols for funerals in order to protect those in attendance. Traylor says they’re exploring the idea of web streaming them. 

“You’re still in the ministry business, you’re still in the people business; you just don’t get up as close as you normally would,” Traylor said. But a lot of people, when they do funerals, [it’s] just small with the family, and then sometimes coming back and doing something larger later. Or just videoing the service.”

And, like others during this time, churches are facing their own financial crunches on the business side of their ministries. Olive Baptist’s Ted Traylor says their parishioners have been the cavalry riding to the rescue.

“Thank the Lord people are faithful; they give unto the Lord because they love him and through His church,” said Traylor. “So I’ve been just really grateful for the way our people have stepped up, not only at Olive but many other churches that I’ve heard of.”

Meanwhile, religious leaders around Florida said this week they have no plans to test the boundaries of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s statewide stay-at-home order. But a few parishes may admit a congregation – confined to fewer than 10 worshipers.