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A reimagined Easter at First United Methodist Church

Easter won’t be the same this year, according to organizers of the beloved resurrection service at First United Methodist Church – and not just because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We want to bring the inspiration and excitement of Easter” said Susan Crawford, choir director for the church’s traditional service. She said recent changes already include mask requirements and pandemic-related seating capacity limits. Services include fewer choir members and instrumentalists. Song lyrics are now printed in the bulletin instead of using hymnals handled by several people.

“But we want this to be a celebration of Easter that’s not subject to Covid,”Crawford said, “but rather that we are coming out of Covid… resurrection in a brand new way.”

Crawford said the church’s traditional services have been “scaled down a bit” but still include organ and piano on all hymns. She said previous Christmas and Easter celebrations usually featured “a cantata.”

“The quartet last Christmas was so well received that we decided to try something similar this Easter,” Crawford said.

The minimized program will maximize worship with a quartet featuring Ms. Crawford singing mezzo soprano; choir members Barbara VanVliet on alto and Jim Bilbro on tenor, and church organist Steve Vaughn singing bass. Three anthems will be added to hymns included the regular order of service. The prelude that opens Easter’s service, performed in duet by church pianist Leigh Stanley and church organist Steve Vaughn, will be the Hallelujah Chorus. 

The three anthems, all featuring piano and quartet, include:

“Christ The Lord Is Risen Again”, arranged by Hal Hopson, with accompaniment by guest violinist and ECU music program grad Laura Eis, as well as church bell choir members Marcia Bowes, Jane Griffin, and Judy Macintosh.

“Hail The Day That Sees Him Rise” by Robert Law, featuring guest musician Scott Pagona on trumpet. An ECU graduate, Pagona teaches orchestra and band at Grifton and Ayden elementary schools and has performed at previous church events;

“Lord Of The Dance,” based on a Shaker hymn and modernized by Sydney Carter, featuring Laura Eis on violin.

Senior pastor William Kenneth Hall will preach the sermon — “Easter: The Ultimate Good News” — at both the 11:15 a.m. traditional service in the sanctuary, and the 10 a.m. contemporary service in Wesley Hall.

The service will not be live streamed, but will be recorded and made available on the church web site shortly after Easter. First United Methodist Church is located at 304 West 2nd Street in Washington, and can be reached by dialing 252-946-3311.

Crawford said her prayer is that worshipers who have avoided in-person church services will come out for this Covid-compliant opportunity.

“I hope people who don’t usually consider attending during a pandemic might want to be here in person for Easter. This is a safe environment,” Crawford said.