One Chicago Pastor’s Easter Message, Streamed From His Empty West Side Church

Easter Sunday, the Carey Tercentenary AME Church
Just six people were present in the sanctuary at Carey Tercentenary AME Church for Easter services– Rev. Walter Harris, his wife, the organist and his wife, the pianist, and the cameraman, who live streamed the service on Facebook.
Easter Sunday, the Carey Tercentenary AME Church
Just six people were present in the sanctuary at Carey Tercentenary AME Church for Easter services– Rev. Walter Harris, his wife, the organist and his wife, the pianist, and the cameraman, who live streamed the service on Facebook.

One Chicago Pastor’s Easter Message, Streamed From His Empty West Side Church

Normally on Easter Sunday, the Carey Tercentenary AME Church in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood would be full of life all day.

A sunrise service would begin at 7 a.m., then the men would cook breakfast for the congregation. There would be Sunday school for adults while the children practiced their recitals one last time.

Then the main service would begin, including plays and skits from the kids. At the end of it all, the church would pass out Easter baskets to all the children.

“Easter Sunday is usually one of the largest gatherings, over 200 people,” said Rev. Walter Harris, who grew up in the small church he now pastors.

But this is no normal Easter Sunday at Carey or Chicago’s African American Christian community more broadly.

The fear of coronavirus is real, especially in the black population of Chicago and Cook County, which has been disproportionately hit by COVID-19 deaths.

Officials’ orders to stay home are real, too. So Carey Tercentenary is closed today, the first time anyone can remember that happening on Easter in the church’s 102-year history.

That means the comfort found in gathering together is gone today, precisely at a moment when it’s needed most. Harris and his staff taped an Easter service in an empty church on Saturday, and it’s posted on Carey Tercentenary’s Facebook page.

Harris told WBEZ his Easter message during this pandemic is, “Even in the midst of hopelessness, Jesus is very much alive.”