RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With COVID-19 cases on the decline across North Carolina, a number of churches are preparing for bigger crowds in anticipation of Easter Sunday next weekend.

It’s been three years since some have attended an Easter service in person. April 2019 was the last time many people attended an actual Easter service, according to associate minister to students, Brain Lockamy of New Hope Baptist Church.

“When COVID first hit numbers declined fast. People were just scared to come out, unsure and uncertain,” Lockamy said.

Introducing online services was a great feature for some but difficult for those who are used to sitting in the church pews. It made the experience different.

“It made it really difficult to be able to reach families whose kids are already burned out from online school,” Lockamy said.

Now that the state is seeing a decline in COVID numbers and hospitalization, church leaders said they are feeling optimistic about the crowds returning.

“It kinda feels like, with vaccinations and with things settling down a little bit, it feels like closer to normal,” said Pastor Ken Hester of Crossroads Fellowship.

Although some ​may still be reluctant to return and continue to use online services, Hester said it’s not the same as in-person.

“You’re going to experience something different in person. We can all watch the final four, we can all watch the Masters, we can all do that and we’re like ‘wow that’s incredible’ to see it, but to be there is a completely different experience,” he said.

Easter Sunday is a day of hope, they say. And just like other churches across the Triangle, they are already making the preparations for more visitors.

“We’ve added extra chairs. We made sure we got different people ready in places and volunteers who are up and excited about it,” Hester said.

For more information on New Hope Baptist Church Easter Service click here.

For info about Sunday Easter Service from Crossroads Fellowship click here.