Changed not canceled: Jamestown community celebrates Easter

St Johns Church services.jpg
The Rev. Erik Weber, pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church in downtown Jamestown is planning an Easter service via a radio broadcast. St. John's Lutheran Church and others have been doing a Sunday morning radio broadcast during the COVID-19 pandemic. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Residents of Jamestown might not be having a "normal" Easter but no pandemic can stop the celebration.

"We are not celebrating Easter as a congregation but we are celebrating Easter," said the Rev. Erik Weber of St. John's Lutheran Church. "As a community of faith, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ wherever we happen to be. We know this year is different than past years and that we have continued to place our trust in the risen Christ."

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, local churches have closed doors to public worship services and have moved to online or other technological platforms. St. John's will be broadcasting the church's Easter service at 9 a.m. on KSJB AM 600 Sunday. Livestreamed Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services were also available to congregants. Weber said the church is doing what they can at this time as far as making services available.

"The celebration of Easter doesn't depend on what we are able to do," Weber said. "Easter comes whether we are able to gather or not because God works in ways that are different than the way we would set this up or organize it. I would just say 'Happy Easter' to folks."

Across town at Jamestown First Assembly, the Rev. Jeff Wiedenmeyer is adopting similar practices for his community of faith. Wiedenmeyer led a livestreamed service on Good Friday and encouraged the community to partake in the communion elements during the service. The church is planning to hold an online Easter service Sunday morning at 10:30.


"This is going to be kind of a cool thing," Wiedenmeyer said in reference to the online platform. "With all the churches that are online all around the world, this is probably going to be the biggest attended Easter service in the history of the planet. It's kind of cool just to think that we are going to be a part of something like that."

While excited for Easter services, Wiedenmeyer acknowledged the changing of traditions and lack of fellowship during the season have been difficult. The majority of churches in Jamestown have been meeting virtually since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. As of April 10, there were 278 positive cases of the virus and seven deaths in the state of North Dakota.

"Is it a bummer that we don't get to meet in person? Absolutely," Wiedenmeyer said.

Meetings of fellowship are being adjusted across denominations.

Bishop John T. Folda of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo issued a statement March 18 that canceled all public celebrations of the Mass, sacraments and parish events throughout the Diocese of Fargo until further notice. St. James Basilica falls in the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Fargo and will, therefore, will not conduct public gatherings including Easter services.

Monsignor Jeffrey Wald said he will not be conducting livestreamed or recorded services to be broadcasted Sunday. The monsignor will continue to encourage the congregation via social media. Wald also encouraged the Catholic community to watch livestreamed Masses, the full list of which can be found at .

While churches are not running normal services in efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines of its own. The CDC recommends people stay home and not travel to help slow the spread of the virus. The wearing of cloth face coverings and keep 6 feet of recommended distance between one another were also recommended by the CDC.

"Everything about Easter this year is different," Weber said. "People will be in town and not traveling to Grandma and Grandpa's. Family gatherings may still happen but they will be different. In that way, it's a very different year which will have its own emerging traditions and things that work and things that don't work."


Sabir's Buffalo Grill is trying some new things they hope will work. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum mandated the closure of all on-site dining establishments on March 16. Since that time general manager Jim Boyd has gotten creative with ways to keep the doors open until the worst of the virus passes. This weekend Sabir's is offering the community a fully catered Easter meal for family celebrations.

"We're taking reservations," Boyd said. "We just kind of figured it would be x number (of meals) we would plan for and we're almost there already. It is going to be good (for business) because quite frankly, this has been the pits. We just really need to get opened up again."

As of Thursday Boyd said patrons can reserve a meal from Sabir's until Saturday at 4 p.m. Meals are to be picked up on Sunday any time between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sabir's is also offering a meal delivery option for elderly patrons. The Easter meal menu complete with prices and pickup times can be found on the Sabir's Buffalo Grill Facebook page.

"I think we all needed something different," Boyd said. "Easter is important to most of us, it's always a family time and we can't do that this year. It's just kind of a family thing."

Some in the Buffalo City are planning on making their own Easter meal at home - just like always, though some dinner fixings might be missing.

Jamestown resident Matt Perkins said while it won't be the feast his family is used to seeing, the dinner prep will likely go beyond mac and cheese. Perkins said he and his family have not had many issues with limited quantities at the grocery stores and appreciate the online ordering and options for easy grocery pickup.

Perkins, his wife, Mollie, and their three small children will also be looking to implement elements of tradition into a holiday that falls in the midst of an unprecedented time.

"During normal years, we always attend Easter service either in Jamestown at Trinity Lutheran Church or at Hope Lutheran Church in Fargo," Perkins said. "Following that we have always gathered with extended family for our Easter meal. We are trying to do all the normal things but just doing them with technology instead to prevent the large gatherings."


In an effort to practice social distancing the Perkins clan will not be traveling or gathering with extended family face to face. The family does plan to eat an Easter dinner via Zoom which allows the family, at the very least, to gather virtually. Other traditions like the dyeing of Easter eggs and the Easter egg hunt will also take place. Perkins said he hopes the activities provide some sort of normalcy.

"I am a firm believer that we should be looking for a silver lining in every situation," Perkins said. "I think the current situation reminds us how fragile life can be and to never take this life for granted. It also is a sobering reminder of how lucky we are to live in a country that gives us the vast amounts of freedoms we tend to take for granted."

In the midst of a global pandemic and a holiday week when people may need extra help and encouragement, Weidenmeyer said Jamestown First Assembly is available to help members of the community. The church is keeping office hours and can also be found on .

"With the current crisis going on, people are looking for hope," Weidenmeyer said. "This Sunday - the resurrection - that is our hope. We are making the best of the circumstances that we have and we're still going to make it a really nice celebrative service. As far as the meaning of the Sunday, that still excites me."

Perkins also spoke of the changes to the holiday and called for cooperation and help of the community to navigate the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Take care of each other, be patient, and realize that everyone is handling these challenges in their own, unique way," Perkins said. "These are certainly tough times, but just as Jesus rose from the dead, we can look forward with hope that a positive outcome can be had from all of this. God bless. Happy Easter."

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
What To Read Next
Get Local