Local churches laid out their plans for Easter this coming Sunday after the government announced Saturday that it was extending its social distancing campaign for another two weeks.
Initially, South Korean churches hoped they could normalize their activities this Monday, the day after Palm Sunday. Holy Week, the week preceding Easter, is a meaningful time in the church calendar.
Nonetheless, due to COVID-19, most of Korea’s Protestant megachurches have decided to hold their Easter services online for the first time.
Yoido Full Gospel Church in Yeouido, Seoul, the biggest church in Korea, will hold its Easter service online.
“We wanted to open our doors for the Easter service,” Yoido Full Gospel Church’s Rev. Kim Kyung-jin said in a statement. “But as we have to maintain social distancing, we cannot hold offline services. If infections occur at our gathering place, it will be a shame not only for our community but also for the Lord.”
The church in Yeouido also decided to hold all services between April 5 and 11 through its online channel.
Onnuri Church in Seoul said it will hold Easter services online. The church is also offering “drive-in worship,” where participants stay in their cars, for church members who would like to gather for Easter. Church members can hear the minister speak through their car radios. Onnuri Church will hold five drive-in services on Easter Sunday, and will accept 250 cars at each one.
According to its website, Onnuri Church had over 82,500 followers as of 2011.
SaRang Church, which has more than 90,000 followers, decided to delay its special activities scheduled this Sunday to mark Easter until April 26.
“For now, we decided to delay the celebration to April 26 but we have to watch the situation. This week we are holding our Sunday service online,” SaRang Church spokesperson Park Seung-ho told The Korea Herald. He also added that if an Easter service takes place April 26, the church will make sure to follow the government guidelines.
Some small and medium-sized churches, however, are likely to hold offline services on Easter.
“On the 29th of last month, 1,817 churches held offline Sunday services, but yesterday (April 5), the number had increased to 1,914,” Yoo Yeon-sik, a Seoul City official in charge of cultural affairs, said during a press briefing Monday. “We found out that since Easter is approaching on the 12th, more churches were holding offline worship.”
To encourage small and medium-sized churches with fewer than 200 members to hold their services online, the government announced Tuesday that it will provide technical support until the end of May.
The support includes providing data with cooperation from telecom companies and online livestreaming platforms jointly with tech conglomerates such as Kakao and Naver.
Meanwhile, the majority of the country’s Roman Catholic churches have decided to take Easter Mass online.
Last Thursday, the Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul decided to hold Easter Mass online and indefinitely postpone all other Easter activities.
Fourteen other local Catholic archdioceses have also decided against holding Easter Mass offline.
By Song Seung-hyun (email@example.com