Reverend Dr Helen Jacobi says she cannot place the last time her church was closed for Easter weekend, but believes it could have been during the devastating 1918 flu pandemic.

Auckland's St Matthew in the City, like many churches across the country, are heading online as they gear up for "unprecedented" Easter services as holy places of worship remain closed under Covid-19 lockdown.

Jacobi said it was "very strange" to be conducting the services while not in the physical church.

"We believe during the 1918 influenza epidemic it would likely have been shut, and three years ago during a cyclone it was closed for one night - but never for this long, it is unprecedented."


The church had pre-recorded services, and screened them online during Easter Holy Week since Palm Sunday, April 5.

Despite losing the intimacy of being in the church, the services were getting good engagement, she said.

"We've had 700 to 800 people tuning in to each service, and we would usually get about 150 people in the church. So we are finding it is actually a great way to reach out to a different audience, with even some people overseas watching and giving feedback."

For Good Friday there would be a 10am service. Another would take place on Saturday evening, and Sunday morning followed by a private Zoom video conference for the congregation.

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Anybody interested was encouraged to join the sessions.

"Although people are not there in the church, they still feel the impacts. Watching the video at home gives a chance for personal reflection, on where they are with their faith, rather than a big gathering with lots of people and with music."

The services can be viewed at


Rev Dr Kerry Enright, of Knox Church in Dunedin, told the Otago Daily Times they too had been finding new ways of communicating with the congregation's nearly 300 households.

The internet and YouTube were used last weekend to broadcast a service on Palm Sunday, and other pre-recorded services have been offered during Easter Holy Week.

Church volunteers using phone trees had contacted parishioners to ensure they were being supported, including with groceries, if needed.

New connections were also being formed with people who had moved away from Dunedin but could now keep in touch online.

Captain David McEwen, of the Salvation Army's City Corps, said a service would be offered nationally online on Sunday morning through Salvation Online.

- with Otago Daily Times