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Outdoor Easter service at Ocean Beach draws large crowd

New London — Hundreds of cars crowded into the Ocean Beach parking lot on Sunday, not to enjoy the soft sand or the kiddie rides, but to hear the word of God.

It was the second Easter in a row that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the day celebrating Jesus’s resurrection into a spectacle for the Calvary Chapel in Eastern Connecticut, which is a part of the international Calvary Chapel network of more than 1,700 churches. All told, almost 300 cars, many carrying families, parked and either rolled the windows down or tuned in to a radio station to listen to the Easter service. 

Pastor Joe Paskewich led the proceedings from atop a flatbed truck with other members from the church and live music. Calvary Chapel Eastern Connecticut has churches in Oakdale, Uncasville, New London and Lebanon. On Sunday the chapel held additional services at the Whale’s Tail in downtown New London and in Lebanon.

Paskewich said last year’s Easter service began a new kind of Sunday worship for the church as they moved to outdoor services all the way until the end of November. 

“There’s no shutting down the church,” Paskewich said. “COVID can’t separate us from the love of God.”

He praised Gov. Ned Lamont for early policies more favorable toward religious gatherings than other governors. 

Those in attendance ranged from avid churchgoers to the twice-a-year Christmas/Easter crowd. Rebecca Pollard, a regular at Calvary’s Uncasville location, brought her family along to the outdoor service.

“I think this type of service is very inclusive, and so is this church,” she said. “You can come as you are. There’s no pressure. I think it’s a great way to bring people together.” 

Pollard said there were definitely more people at Ocean Beach on Sunday than the usual Sunday attendees.

“I don’t normally come to Calvary services, but my sister and niece mentioned a few weeks ago that they’d be doing this, and I said ‘yes,’” Sarah Pollard, Rebecca’s sister, said. “We need some fun, and this is fun.”

The Pollards had plans to possibly paint Easter eggs following the service. 

Tom Miyashiro, who co-founded the New London-based Faith 2 Faith Ministries, an Evangelist organization that seeks to spread the gospel among young people, is a frequent guest speaker at Calvary’s Easter services. He said the death of his first wife in 2010 from cancer has shaped his faith and given him patience with God.

 “Maybe you’re praying for something right now, and you’re wondering if God is going to help,” Miyashiro said. “We feel confident that God’s going to move on our behalf, but it doesn’t change instantaneously. That sickness lingers, maybe even gets worse. You’re standing for God when you’re going through this brutal divorce or custody battle for the kids. It’s not going away, but God has spoken, and you believe.” 

Miyashiro said God doesn’t forget when people need help, it just may not come right away.

The people at Sunday’s 11 a.m. service honked their car horns loudly and repeatedly in agreement throughout the service as Miyashiro, Paskewich and others found ways to connect Jesus’s resurrection to today’s context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

s.spinella@theday.com

 

 

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