The Rev. Joseph Elston ministered to his congregation through a camera last Easter, but this year, the pews at St. John the Evangelist will be partially filled for Easter Masses.
“It feels great to have people back in church,” Elston said.
With several reservation-only Masses throughout Holy Week at both St. Joseph Marello and St. John the Evangelist parishes, Elston said most Masses are filling up quickly.
“Social distance has really cut our capacity,” Elston cautioned. “Our capacity is about 120 if we use the balcony.”
While Easter Masses require reservations, Elston said the churches have not needed reservations for regular weekend and daily Masses since allowing in-person attendance midway through last June.
“People have been patient and very supportive and complimentary,” he said.
St. Joseph Marello hosted a Holy Thursday Mass on April 1 and a Good Friday Mass on April 2. The parish will hold its Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday, April 3, at 8 p.m. and its Easter Sunday Mass at 10:30 a.m. April 4.
St. John the Evangelist also held Holy Thursday and Good Friday Masses, and will hold an 8 p.m. Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday, April 3. The parish will hold Easter Sunday Masses at 9 and 11:30 a.m.
Elston said attendance at in-person Masses started out “spotty,” but has grown as people have felt more comfortable.
“We sanitize the church in between each service. We socially distance and everyone wears a mask,” Elston said.
Through all of this, Elston said the congregation has found ways to continue to support the parish.
“People have been very generous and have supported the church by dropping off their contributions or mailing them in,” he said.
Langcliffe Presbyterian Church in Avoca did not hold virtual services for Easter in 2020, instead opting to have members pick up paper worship packets. Pastor Margaret Ziegler said she is looking forward to having in-person services this year.
“Our worship … is safe as long as everyone observes our policy,” she said. “Our numbers have been easy to spread out in our large sanctuary, so we feel comfortable being inside.”
Ziegler said the church posted its Good Friday service online, but will hold an in-person Easter Sunday service at 10 a.m. April 4.
“We have over 20 pews available for family or individual seating, around 50 people depending on family size,” she said. “Only one entrance and our sanctuary are open, pews are designated for social distancing, sanitizer and masks are available, and masking is required.”
Ziegler said the challenges of 2020 and those that linger in 2021 have shown the dedication of her church community.
“People are willing to observe safety measures in order to worship in church,” she said. “Although there was resistance to online worship, those who follow it are very appreciative.”