Another Easter during a pandemic

Church members practice social distancing and wear masks. Photo from Curtis Compton/AP

Resurrection Sunday is among us and every year my family and I attend Sunrise service, host dinners and participate in egg hunts. When COVID-19 first hit the U.S. and quarantine began, Easter was one of the first holidays to be affected. We anticipated being out of quarantine by now, however, we prepared for another Easter service at home.

I was excited to see distant cousins, aunties and uncles but I understand the safety risk that it holds. The experience of Easter Sunday has been impacted by the pandemic but hopefully for the last time.

Resurrection Sunday is a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For as long as I can remember, my family has celebrated Easter together with family members from out of town and church members who attend service with us. It has always included fellowshipping and getting together.

COVID-19 canceled the entire experience last year.

Coming from a Christian background, I experienced COVID’s impact on my church firsthand. My father had made it to his second anniversary pastoring a church and when COVID became a threat to the lives of members, he immediately halted services. As a pastor he was disheartened about not being able to fellowship with members at church, however, as a respiratory therapist, he witnessed the severity of the virus on people’s health and knew it was the best thing to do.

Black churches however have significantly suffered during this pandemic. Many closed their doors at the start of the outbreak and have yet to reopen. Some churches have reopened, however, due to the virus some are fearful to return to the church house, even for Easter service.

Bishop Michael Johnson has reopened his church in Jacksonville, Fla but maintains digital media for those who chose to stay at home. Upon opening the church doors, Johnson has made sure that there are social distancing, sanitization and masks mandated in the church house. To prepare for Easter service there have been special precautions and limitations to maintain safe conditions. Members who wish to can attend in-service, however due to local outbreaks and the lift of the mask mandates in Jacksonville, members are likely to stay home to reduce the risk of infection.

“The majority of my members choose to stay home because of uncertainty about the virus circulating,” Johnson said.

Churches have become more virtual and have accommodated members who attend online. Since the COVID outbreak began, 85% of churchgoers say their church has offered a live stream worship service. Johnson has found that virtual services have been a positive reinforcement after the COVID outbreak began.

“I welcome the virtual aspects online, I think it is a huge asset to my church to getting the gospel out to people who have never even been to my church,” Johnson said. “It has increased our finances in the church because there have been more people giving virtually, it is something that we always knew we needed, we will look to keep up with it and make it part of our ongoing services for when we go back to church. I have members all over the nation now and we just can’t walk away from them.”

When COVID cases began to be evident in the U.S. in March last year, President Trump assured American’s that cases would be cleared by Apriland everything would seemingly return to normal. However, the exact opposite happened. The pandemic raged on as cases increased in the U.S. and now, a year later, we finally have a vaccination to help slow the spread of the virus.

The CDC released official advisement for gathering this Easter advising against travel and encouraging virtual celebration. The CDC also confirmed that those who are fully vaccinated may be able to have gatherings without masks.

While the vaccine is bringing a little normalcy to this Easter Sunday, many churches are still hosting services virtually to stay safe during the pandemic and avoid any outbreaks.