This year Easter came at about the same time as Ohio was predicted to peak in the pandemic. Thankfully, social distancing efforts helped us avoid the worst predictions but kept churches and normal holiday celebrations closed. In the midst of upheaval, the core community of Lydia’s House was still able to observe our own, intimate version of Easter.

On Wednesday of Holy Week, Mary Ellen prepared a beautiful Seder meal with the traditional Seder foods. From matzo, symbolizing the unleavened bread, to tender lamb– the traditional sacrifice, to parsley for new life and horseradish for bitterness and suffering. We thought about the Passover and the Israelite’s journey to freedom. And half joking, half serious, we wondered outloud: if we were to put blood on our door frame would this plague pass over us? It was a unique solidarity with our ancient foremothers and fathers. On Holy Thursday Mary Ellen preached the homily at Bellarmine chapel and talked of the parallels of this moment in our lives and the fateful evening before Jesus was sentenced to death.

On Easter Saturday we again gathered for a socially distanced Easter Vigil with a small group of neighbors and our core community at Lydia’s House. The more vulnerable in our circle wore masks and while some of us sat close to the fire ring, others sat far away. We held a vigil on Easter Saturday to stand with Christians everywhere who “keep watch” as we wait for Jesus to rise again.

We remembered the suffering of Jesus while reminding each other of our baptismal vows (yes, we reject Satan and his empty promises) and the coming joyous resurrection day. We read through major passages of scripture from Exodus to Romans, outlining the key moments of our faith history. As the sun sat, we went ahead and proclaimed the good news: Christ is risen and we too can experience abundant life. Honna brought her instruments, and after a sermon from Anne Householder and some shared prayers, we put more wood on the fire and began singing.

Easter Sunday morning we celebrated again, first with the ceremonial opening of the tombs created by the Eilerman children at their home atrium, followed by an amazing brunch surrounded by our Lydia’s House family. The meal included incredible smoothies made by Annie Eilerman and individually ordered omelettes made by Sam Eilerman. Honna got up at 6am to make fresh Cinnamon rolls, Bethany brought fruit pizza and coconut macaroons, Anne baked custom”bunny cakes” and deviled eggs, and so much more. What a celebration.

At least for another day the virus had passed us by … and we learned what Christians have known for centuries: we can celebrate even in the midst of fear and suffering; indeed it’s more rare to have one without the other.