On Sunday, Christians of many denominations will celebrate Easter to mark what they believe was Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a high-point on the Christian calendar — a day where church pews are often packed to capacity for a rejoiceful celebration.

But how do you rejoice in times like these?

Typically, Easter Sunday at Grace Community Church, a non-denominational Christian church in Marblehead, is like Easter Sunday at a lot of Christian churches.

"Easter Sunday is a very lively service," said the church's pastor, Rev. Eric Dokken. "[It's] Probably our liveliest service of the year. People dress up. We fill our sanctuary with flowers."

This Easter his church will be empty, as will churches across the region — and indeed around the world. Still, his congregation will gather Sunday online, as they have been each Sunday now for weeks.

"And it’s been better attended that our services where people could physically come to them," said Dokken.

The Episcopal Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill has also found a wider community in recent days, said rector Father Douglas Anderson. They’ve been producing a panoply of webcasts, from archived choral vespers to clergy-led meditations, to streaming Sunday services.

"Those have not only been spiritually nourishing to our own people but to the wider church and indeed to the whole Anglican communion," said Anderson. "If we track where people are listening from, it’s quite literally all over the world."

The Roman Catholic parishioners of St. John’s in Worcester will also be able to attend Easter Services online, but they won’t be able to partake of the centerpiece of the Catholic Mass — Holy Communion.

"They’re fasting from the bread of life," said Madden. "So that’s hard."

With parishioners unable to gather to take communion wafers, Father Madden will instead offer a prayer of spiritual communion.

"And hopefully, this fasting teaches us something about how precious the meal is," he said.

Communion is also central for parishioners at The Episcopal Church of The Nativity in Northborough. Pastor Chad McCabe and a team of volunteers there delivered custom packages to 120 families for Easter. In them was everything from prayer books to Easter candy to bread and wine for communion.

Pastor Chad McCabe and his son, who has been serving as the acolyte for streaming services, inside the Church of The Nativity in Northborough, Mass.
Courtesy of Chad McCabe

McCabe is also a chaplain in the Army National Guard, and he finds himself reflecting deeply these days on the people on the front lines of the coronavirus battle.

"Those are the folks that I’m preaching to the most," said McCabe. "That death is not the end. That death is part of life."

Preaching is central to the work of all spiritual leaders — and so it will be this Easter for Reverend Miniard Culpepper of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Dorchester. He’ll deliver his sermon online — with live audio also available by phone for those in his community without access to streaming. And he will be delivering it from, essentially, an empty church.

"One of the things that we were taught in divinity school is that whether there's one or two or three people in front of you, you still preach as if you're preaching to five thousand," he said.

Culpepper said he’s been praying especially hard this year that he finds the right words for what is always an important day for his congregation — even more so in these extraordinary times.

"Hopefully I’ll say something that will encourage them and lift them up and give them hope," he said.

Hope is something that we could all use a little of right now. And will be a part of the message each of these men of faith will communicate to their congregations this Easter. Maybe there’s some wisdom or comfort in that for the rest of us too, whatever we do — or do not — believe in.

"All of a sudden hugs are more so much more treasured, right? Being together is so much more important," said Father Madden. "I think we just have to pray that once we're through it, that we hold onto these lessons, so that our days are better than they were before the virus came."