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As churches mark Easter, hope builds for return to in-person services

Shelia Poole, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Religious News

ATLANTA — The Nett Church in Gwinnett County plans to hold Easter service indoors, the first in-person service inside the church buildings since last March 15.

Since that time, the church, like many others, has turned online, with congregants watching streamed services. Nett Church — which has campuses in Lawrenceville, Lilburn and Norcross — has also held outdoor “house churches,” where members gather to watch the livestream together, following health guidelines.

This Sunday, things will be different.

“We don’t say we’re opening on Easter because we were never closed,” said Lead Pastor Rodrigo Cruz. “Theologically, Easter brings in hope, a new future and a new season. It’s about the resurrection of Jesus and the message he brought. Our community is still living in fear (and) panic, and Easter reminds us to be louder in our message of love and hope.”

For many churches, that hope has come in the form of COVID-19 vaccines as more and more inoculated members are slowly leading to a return to pre-pandemic worship. Easter is the first large religious observance for some churches that plan to hold services inside for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began more than a year ago.

New data from Pew Research Center found that many people are more confident they can safely attend services in person. Roughly 4 in 10 people who typically attend religious services at least once or twice a month say they actually have done so, in person, during the past month — an increase of 9 points since last summer, according to the survey conducted in early March.

 

But that trend only goes so far, and many worshippers are still not comfortable being inside. Just 39% of those surveyed plan to attend in-person services this Easter, much lower than the 62% who said they typically go to church on Easter. For many congregations, this Easter Sunday will be the second observed with their doors closed to congregants.

Amos King aches to get back inside Beulah Missionary Baptist Church.

He misses the fellowship and in-person worship. He misses the hugs and slaps on the back.

He knows, though, that not everyone will come back. At least not right away.

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