Jamie Ivey shares how her family is celebrating Easter this year and the significance of the holiday during a pandemic.
By Courtney Runn, Jamie Ivey photo by Annie Ray
As a pandemic rages, Easter is stripped bare of its frills this year. Churches can’t host highly produced, marketed services; new dresses have no witnesses; elaborate Easter egg hunts and neighborhood parades are on hold; many families are separated, and some are spending the day completely alone. Even the most tech-savvy churches can’t replicate the experience of Easter via livestream; they’re left with the substance of their message.
“It feels like we’re in the middle of the unknown,” Jamie Ivey says. As a pastor’s wife, this Easter will actually be the first in years her family will spend together, one of the silver linings of this season. Austin Woman talked to Ivey, an author, podcaster and former cover woman, about how she’s celebrating this year and the weightier significance of the holiday.
Austin Woman: How is your family celebrating this year?
Jamie Ivey: We are planning on watching church online as a family, like we’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks and then my husband is going to cook a big meal. It’s kind of weird because Easter is going to look a lot different for us than it normally would because normally [my husband] Aaron would be working all day long at church and we would have little to no time to celebrate as a family. So, I guess the crazy thing is we’ll have an entire day to celebrate as a family and we have not had that in years. I feel like it’s a little bit of a blessing in disguise because we get to all be together and normally that wouldn’t happen.
AW: Are you still keeping any traditions?
JI: I think I’ll ask my kids to get out of their pajamas for the day just to feel a little bit of normalcy. I think I’m actually going to get myself ready, which is not something I’ve been doing every day of this quarantine as I’m sure you understand. But Story, my daughter, will 100 percent come down in her full-on Easter dress and I will be so excited about that.
One of the silver linings of this whole quarantine thing is that our family has been eating dinner together every night. Our family values dinner time a lot and we value family time but, with teenagers, that often isn’t the case that we’re eating together every single night of the week. Our church did put out a holy week devotional, so over dinner at night we have been reading those scriptures and talking about it with our kids. … We’re also planning on watching the movie with Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ. We’re going to watch that tonight as a family. I will say that’s a hard watch for anybody but it’s true and it’s what happened so we’re going to watch that.
AW: As you’ve reflected on this week leading up to Easter, how does the holiday feel different this year in light of coronavirus?
JI: I was thinking the other day how we feel so in the unknown with coronavirus. There are so many answers we don’t get. We don’t know how long we’re going to be quarantined, we don’t know how long until they have a vaccine, we don’t know how this is going to affect the next two months, the next two years. We just don’t know. It feels like we’re in the middle of unknown and I’ve thought a lot about what that must have felt like to the followers of Jesus on that Saturday. They had witnessed Jesus crucified on Friday and then it feels like they would’ve been kind of where we are: ‘Wait, we don’t know how to get through this. This feels like messy and in the middle and a lot of unknowns.’ … As a follower of Jesus, as a Christian, the exciting news is we already know Sunday is coming. We already know the end of that story. So that even brings hope to me that even though I don’t know the end of coronavirus, in the bigger picture of life and my faith I do know the end of how that works out.
AW: What have you learned about your faith and God you didn’t know before?
JI: I don’t know that I have the best thing I’ve learned about God through this season right now, but I think I’ve had to trust him more than I normally have to. As a Christian, I can be like, ‘Oh I trust God.’ But my life is quote on quote fairly easy. We might have some hard times with our kids, we might have a difficult season of marriage but nothing like this rug being pulled out underneath all of us has really happened in my life in a long time. I’m having to really stand on the truths that I’ve always said I believed and believe them more. I think that’s been difficult I would assume for most people, of faith or not faith. But especially those that say we believe what God’s word says is true. We’re having to actually really believe that it’s true, that he’s still good and he hasn’t forgotten us and he hasn’t left us. Especially I think of my friends who have family members who are dying, they’ve lost their jobs and that’s when is it true or isn’t it true comes to play and I’m thankful and happy to say I still believe it to be true. But I’m having to really stand on that truth more than I have in a long time.
AW: This is a raw, stripped down Easter this year. There’s no highly produced church service or Easter dress shopping or huge meal. How do you think churches are benefiting from not feeling the need to do all the things?
JI: We had this really big Zoom Austin Stone worship [team] family dinner. … One of the things I mentioned to them is it can feel a little off this weekend because Easter is a really big Sunday for churches. A lot of people come to church on Easter that maybe don’t normally come so it’s a really great opportunity for churches to introduce the public to Jesus, so we don’t take it lightly. So, I was telling them, it might feel weird that on kind of the biggest Sunday we normally have, we’re all at home. But I just wanted to encourage them that the work they’re doing to get online services out there and in front of people, that really matters right now and it’s an opportunity for us to see God is still God and He doesn’t need our big church services for people to be encouraged or to find hope in Jesus. … God doesn’t even need us to create this incredible environment for people to come in…he can use the internet or use things that were pre-recorded to bring hope and life and love to people even if they’re not walking into a building.
AW: How do you think churches will change because of this?
JI: I think things will change but I don’t think we’ll ever lose gathering together because that’s how God asked us to encourage each other…So I don’t foresee that changing but I do think there is going to be maybe a little bit more awareness for what we’re putting online, how we’re also reaching people who might not be walking in so I don’t think it’s going to be, ‘Oh we don’t even need a building anymore, cut back on some of our staff.’ I do think there’s going to be this awareness of what are some unique ways we can reach people that maybe we had to figure out during quarantine that can still happen once we’re able to gather together again.