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Citrus Heights churches adapt to an unusual Easter amid COVID-19 crisis

A sign outside the future site of a new church building on Auburn Boulevard advertises Pioneer Baptist Church’s Easter “drive-in” service. // CH Sentinel

By Rylie Friesen-
From a “drive-in” Easter church service to communion and worship at home, Citrus Heights churches are adapting to unprecedented times with creativity in celebrating Resurrection Sunday.

With churches closing their doors as residents comply with county health orders to shelter-in-place and only leave home for essential activities, here’s how four local churches have chosen to celebrate Easter this year: 

Pioneer Baptist Church is holding a “drive-in” church service where Pastor Kyle Conley says attendees will be able to hear a sermon and participate in singing, while maintaining social distancing protocols and staying inside their vehicles at all times.

The church has been hosting services through live-streaming on YouTube and Facebook Live, but opted to go for a “drive-in” service for the first time on Easter. “The liquor stores and Drive In Theaters are open, and I am of absolute conviction that church is way more essential,” Conley said in an email sent out to his congregation. 

The service will be held at 11 a.m. in a large, vacant lot across from Rusch Park at 7828 Auburn Blvd., where the church plans to construct a new church building in the future. The church normally meets at 7600 Old Auburn Rd.

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Bayside of Citrus Heights is also celebrating Easter in a different way this year, gathering online through Facebook Live. Services are planned for 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11:30 a.m. 

Bayside also celebrated Good Friday remotely, with Pastor Craig Sweeney and his wife reading a portion of scripture and leading those watching in communion, while seated on a couch broadcasting on Facebook Live from their home. Communion is a Christian sacrament that involves consuming consecrated bread and wine/juice that symbolize the body and blood of Jesus, and his death.

Elsewhere in the city, Antelope Road Christian Fellowship is live-streaming an Easter service at 10 a.m., on both Youtube and Facebook: “Our Easter Service might look a little different this year, but we are still celebrating our Risen Savior, our King of Kings!” the church said in a social media post.

The church has also partnering with the Citrus Heights Homeless Assistance Resource Team to help support the homeless amid the shelter-in-place orders. Showers are provided from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and a free dinner is offered at 4 p.m. on the same days. 

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Holy Family Catholic Church on Old Auburn Road is also live streaming two services on Youtube for Easter. An English morning mass will be broadcast at 8:30 a.m., followed by a Spanish morning mass at 10 a.m.

Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence told The Sentinel on Saturday that his department “respect(s) those wanting to worship on Easter Sunday,” but cautioned that “some of the biggest incidents of the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the Sacramento region has been the result of churchgoers congregating and not adhering to the Health Orders.”

He said local police “will not be regulating drive-thru church services,” and will continue to focus on voluntary compliance through education, while reserving the right to take “appropriate action for the protection and safety of everyone.”

“While we understand the importance of faith, freedom of religion, and individuals choice of spiritual practices, we strongly encourage people to consider utilizing technology or remote viewing to reduce the chances of person to person contact,” said Lawrence.

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