CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – Many families couldn’t wait for the opportunity to come back into a church and worship together in person for the first time in years.

This is the first holiday churchgoers are able to celebrate without any COVID-19 mask mandates or social distancing.

Attendees like Bill Green, who is a member of the Christ the King Lutheran Church, said Sunday he and his family were celebrating Easter for the first time in person since the COVID pandemic hit.

“We’re all in the building, we’re all together and it kinda shows how things can progress and get better. And Easter is the perfect way of kinda showing that things will get better,” Green said.

Rev. Wolfgang Herz-Lane is the senior pastor of the Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cary and said this service was special.

“Two years ago we were preaching to empty pews and empty seats, that is so weird. So to actually have an audience that reacts and responds, is such a blessing to us today,” Herz-Lane said.

The church typically holds 1,500 people, but that will soon be in the past.

Herz-Lane said they have since adjusted to online service and although it’s effective- he said it’s nothing like in-person service.

Attendees in the congregation agree.

“For Easter service, you get to see a lot of new faces, when you are doing it in person like last year we did it online. It’s good to see new people coming in and really seeing how our church is,” said Green’s daughter Mattie Green.

“When you are at home it’s kinda like you don’t feel the same as you do when you are in person. You can really feel the spirit move through the other people and it’s just an amazing experience in person,” Ashley Sammer said.

Sarah Parkins said Sunday was her first time visiting the church and she was impressed and loved the in-person environment.

“The point of coming to church is to be with your community and to really feel that warmth and friendliness from the community. You don’t really get that as much as a virtual attendee of a church,” she said.

As the service ended, Herz-Lane said people were excited and very emotional.

“Many people were actually in tears. I mean, they were just so glad to be able to be back, not just to hear me or other pastors, but to see each other, to hug each other, and to actually be in relationships with one another,” he said.

Herz-Lane said they recommend all attendees still wear masks and come vaccinated but it’s only a recommendation. Because of their ability to reach worshipers in other parts of the state, the country and other parts of the world, the church will offer both online and in-person services.

For more information on their services click here.