On April 12, Easter Sunday morning, Archdeacon Lee Bezanson, along with a worship team consisting of Lisa and Matthew Furry and Angela Bokenfohr, gathered at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in St. Albert to present what has become their weekly church service live-streamed on Facebook. At the end of the service, however, the worship team had a surprise in store for Archdeacon Lee. They pulled up a chair and continued to live-stream as he watched a video presentation of Easter sentiments from parishioners. It was a touching and inspiring moment for all. Angela Bokenfohr describes how it came to be:
Everyone can think of that person in their lives who goes out of their way to be hospitable: greets you with a smile, embraces you in a hearty handshake and asks with sincerity the age-old question, “how was your week?”
The person who immediately comes to mind for us at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in St. Albert is our rector, Archdeacon Lee Bezanson. On a typical Sunday morning he would be robed and ready to go with enough time to stand at the open doors of the church to greet everyone, even the early-comers!
The COVID pandemic has been challenging for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. Some have the challenge of working on the frontlines, while others face the challenge of being unemployed or working from home. Ministry teams have also had to adapt their person-to-person practices. Unable to greet or send parishioners out each week, they preach to a video camera in an empty church (or from home) and are unsure if anyone is even tuning in for the live-stream feed.
St. Matthew’s wondered what we could do, if anything, to support our rector who is tirelessly making calls to the parish list, prepping online worship, and is unable to actually physically see his flock.
Why not a surprise VIDEO produced by us just for him? It would be the perfect way for the people of St. Matthew’s “out there” to remind Archdeacon Lee that, despite the pandemic, they hadn’t actually “gone” anywhere. They are still very much present to his ministry at St. Matthew’s.
A call went out via email for people to send in a picture of what Easter means to them/their family, along with a video clip of their Easter greetings. The challenge was they had only one week to respond.
In no time at all, my inbox was overflowing and, as I started to arrange the offerings into a video for Archdeacon Lee, I was overcome with both a sense of hope and gratitude. It was incredibly apparent that, despite the church being empty on Sunday mornings, our message was reaching out into parishioners’ homes.
“We hear you loud and clear Archdeacon Lee! We WILL overcome COVID-19! We are all in this together. This will not define us, break us, or stop us from experiencing, living and sharing God’s love for us!”
And how did Archdeacon Lee feel about his parish’s Easter surprise?
I had, in the course of my Easter morning sermon, told the story of a three-year-old girl named Nicole who apparently loved Easter even more than Christmas morning. As Easter grew closer and closer, little Nicole grew more and more excited. One day she is out with her father, who happens to be the pastor of one of the town’s largest churches, and she’s going on and on and on. Finally, Dad says to her, “Nicole, do you even know what Easter means?”
“Sure Dad,” says Nicole.
“Well then, tell me.”
Standing there, a huge smile lighting up her face, Nicole lifts up her hands and says one word: “SURPRISE!!!”
Apparently, Dad later confessed that he had to rip up his proposed Easter sermon and start again. His six-page theological dissertation hadn’t come close to describing what Easter was all about, as had been so perfectly described by his three-year-old daughter in just one word.
When Angela sat me down and played this video, I couldn’t have been more SURPRISED myself. It was so emotionally powerful to see and hear the faces and voices of my socially distanced “flock.” So much credit needs to go to Angela and to each of our many families who somehow pulled this together. Being the luddite that I am, I cannot and should not offer an opinion on how they managed to do it. But I sure was SURPRISED!
St. Matthew’s surprise Easter message to their rector can be viewed on YouTube:
St. Matthew's St. Albert Easter Video Message