REGIONAL—Pastor John Erickson is excited to be able to worship in person on Easter Sunday at the Sutherland Church of Christ.

“There’s a part of our faith that really revolves around community and building one another up,” Erickson said.

“As Scripture says, iron sharpens iron. That’s what we really experienced. There’s really a lot more to it when we can get together and when we can be encouraged by one another.”

Two services are set for the morning: One at 9 a.m. and the other at 10:30 a.m. In between the services will be additional activities such as photo opportunities against a festive backdrop and an outdoor Easter egg hunt for children.

“We get loads of candy and prizes, and we’ll give out like scooters and footballs and kites and all sorts of prizes and try and have a lot of fun with families on that day,” Erickson said.

Erickson’s Easter message will focus on the theme of restoration through Jesus Christ and will kick off four-week series of sermons revolving around the idea of how God brings restoration in other facets of life.

“We’ll talk about restored time, we’ll talk about restoring relationships. We’ll talk about the restoration that Jesus has done in our own lives to bring us back to God,” he said.

The Sutherland church — like several others in N’West Iowa — was unable to hold in-person services for the holiday last year amid social distancing concerns with the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the congregation held a communitywide drive-in service along Second Street in the downtown part of the southern O’Brien County community. Worshippers tuned in to Erickson’s sermon through a local radio station as he preached from a scissor lift.

The Sutherland Church of Christ will not be alone in holding Easter services that let congregants gather in person.

The Primghar Church of Christ is holding an 8 a.m. service called “Recalling the Resurrection,” which will be followed by breakfast and a 10 a.m. service, according to Pastor Mike Cooper.

Cooper also is pastor at the United Church of Primghar, which is holding its Easter worship service at 9 a.m. followed by a time for coffee and fellowship. Although the churches have held joint services in the past, they chose to keep worship separate at each building for Easter for social distancing purposes.

“With Easter, they felt it would be bigger attendance at each church so they wanted to still keep that separate,” Cooper said.

Like Erickson, Cooper is eager to observe Easter with others inside. He recalled how for Easter last year, he and the worship team at the Primghar Church of Christ held a livestreamed service outside following a blizzard that hit earlier that day.

“To just be able to get back into this and really make this the celebration that it should be for the resurrection of Jesus is huge,” Cooper said. “It’s just like a breath of fresh air. Some that haven’t been in church for a while or those that have been coming slowly back are just going to be so excited, not just to be together but to be able to praise God in person.”

Except for the 8 a.m. services, the Primghar churches will livestream their Easter worship proceedings for those unable to attend or who choose to watch from home.

Livestreaming also has continued at the Sutherland Church of Christ and will likely be a permanent worship feature there because it lets people tune into services when traveling or sick.

The Rev. Brett Witmer at Bethel Lutheran Church in Sutherland also is looking forward to his first Easter Sunday service since he was installed as pastor in July.

The church had services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and has two planned for Sunday: A 7 a.m. sunrise service and 10:30 a.m. worship, with a socially distanced breakfast in between.

The church’s services also are broadcast on the local cable channel, WTTV 16, at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and 5 p.m. Thursdays.

Witmer said being able to worship together on Easter will help provide a sense of normalcy for people in light of the pandemic the past year.

“The great thing about the church here is that it puts us in the life of Christ,” he said. “That gives people something to look to especially that, as Jesus came back from the dead, there is something even greater than this virus.”

This story was first published in the April 3, 2021, print edition of The South O'Brien Sun.