RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Christians across the Triangle celebrated Easter at churches for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“This is the first time in over a year that we haven’t actually done church online now. So it’s been a really long year,” said Sarah Hardison, who attended mass with her family at the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh.
Hardison described last Easter as “solemn” and “quiet,” but this year, she says it felt more like a celebration.
“We get to congregate with our families because we’ve been vaccinated, so it’s a bigger deal,” she said.
Pre-pandemic, the Cathedral would typically welcome 2,000 people through the doors for Easter services. This year, each mass was limited to 650 people. Parishioners had to reserve tickets online.
“It’s been even scary getting ready today to be able to make sure, you know, alright, it’s gonna be a crowd, we need to socially distance,” Hardison said of the hesitancy she was feeling. “But we’re just thankful to be able to come together.”
While some churches welcomed people back, others like Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cary remain closed.
“The first person who caught the COVID-19 virus in North Carolina is a member of our church, so the pandemic kind of came to our doorstep right away,” said Rev. Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane, senior pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Church.
Herz-Lane said he doesn’t want to risk opening too soon.
“We’ve chosen to voluntarily follow all the guidelines from the governor’s office just because we wanted to be on the safe side,” he said. “Just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s smart to. Church’s in the early weeks and months of the pandemic often became super-spreader events, and that’s the last thing we wanted.”
For now, he and the other church pastors will continue to preach their message of hope for the masses watching at home. Nearly 1,200 people tune in to virtual mass every Sunday.
“Our hashtag this year is ‘Hope is on the Way’ and of course, that’s exactly what Easter is about, right? New life from death. Hope coming out of despair. I think after a whole year of pandemic, that’s a message people really need to hear. That despite all the tribulations and despite all the troubles and despite all the death, there is hope on the way,” Herz-Lane said.