BOSTON ( Associated Press) — For many American Christians, this weekend is the first time since 2019 that they will gather in person on Easter Sunday, a welcome opportunity to celebrate one of the holiest days of the year with fellow congregations.
The pandemic hit the country in March 2020, just before Easter, forcing many churches to resort to online or televised worship. Many continued to turn to virtual services after the deadly winter wave of the coronavirus last spring and the vaccination campaign was still ramping up. But this year more churches are opening their doors for Easter services with some COVID-19 restrictions, in line with broader social trends.
Among them is the Catholic parish in the Archdiocese of Boston, which since last June has once again required most churchgoers to attend Mass in person – although those with health risks can still watch from afar, and clergymen in churches. Have been asked to make space for social distancing. ,
MC Sullivan, chief health care ethicist for the diocese, said it’s important to celebrate collectively how Catholics profess their faith. Church attendance is on the rise, and parishioners are excited to gather again to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
“It has been quite amazing to see how well Mass is attended right now. … It seems a lot of people have come back to the idea of what is important to them,” she said.
While most pandemic restrictions have been lifted, some area parishes are pulling out Easter Sunday services, which include Sunrise Mass at 6 a.m. near the waterfront in South Boston.
Hundreds lit candles in the sprawling Cathedral of St. Paul, Minnesota, when Archbishop Bernard Hebda blessed the fire and lit a Paschal candle to open the Easter Vigil service.
The century-old cathedral echoed with the singing of the congregation as if candles were twinkling in the dark. Just after 8 p.m., wide-eyed children and cantors fascinated by small flames outnumbered those wearing masks – the archdiocese canceled all COVID protocols on 1 April, while allowing faithful and individual parishes if They allow caution if they wish.
Similarly the nearby Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, which became a community center during protests over the killing of George Floyd in 2020, ended its mask requirement as of Palm Sunday and returned to communing shoulder to shoulder on rails . Pastor Ingrid Rasmussen said Easter attendance was expected to be similar to pre-pandemic levels – but divided between those and those attending remotely.
Christ Church Lutheran, also an architectural landmark in Minneapolis, is taking a cautious approach to loosening COVID protocols. But while masks and social distancing measures remain in place, there was an indoor Easter Vigil on Saturday night, followed by a gospel procession in the middle of the sanctuary on Sunday.
Pastor Mary Samuelson-Roberts said, “The gift of being in the same physical space for the first time in three years is so important and beautiful.” “We don’t take it lightly.”
Peace Lutheran Church in Baldwin, Wisconsin, was holding Easter at the sanctuary again after spending 16 months hosting services, baptisms and funerals in a parking lot surrounded by farms and dairy farms. But services continue to be broadcast via social media and local TV – which has been successful in attracting people from other communities.
“One thing I am certain of is that if we should restrict our gatherings – for whatever reason – we would certainly draw on our resources to ‘meet people’,” said John Hanson, pastor.
In New York City, the Middle Collegiate Church was gathering for its first in-person Easter service since 2019, not just at their historic Manhattan church, which was destroyed by fire two December ago.
As they rebuild, they are sharing space at the East End Temple, where Rabbi Joshua Stanton will pray during Easter celebrations – at a time when the synagogue is observing its holy days of Passover.
Senior Minister of the Middle Collegiate, Rev. Jackie Lewis said everyone would have to be “waxed and masked” and that attendance at the 190-person temple is being limited to 150. Those leading the service, as well as the choir and musicians, took part in rapid COVID testing. Coffee time will be at the park across the street.
“We will miss it, but we will not embrace passing peace. We will just bow down to each other,” Lewis said. “We are watching the numbers and will pivot as we need to stay safe.”
North of the city in Westchester County, Bedford Presbyterian Church was also keeping a close watch on local infection rates and following public health guidelines. The congregation will split into two individual Easter services, with the sanctuary windows open and the church using heavy-duty air purifiers to allow for social distancing.
Senior Pastor Rev. Carol Howard Merritt said: “As we head towards our third Easter, ministers have added to a lot of concerns and expectations.” “We know that the church shuns isolation and builds community, so we try to figure out ways to worship in person and online.”
Dell’Orto reported from St. Paul, Minnesota and Henao from Pennsylvania.
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