This was a great opportunity to share the joy with fellow Christians.
Notable events include a sunrise Mass at 6 a.m. in South Boston and a joyful, hug-filled service at St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Watson Grove Baptist Church, a predominantly Black congregation in Nashville, Tennessee, had planned for an outdoor service at a park downtown. Rain forced an unexpected change in plans. 700 mask-wearing worshippers gathered instead at the church's sanctuary. Senior pastor John Faison stated that this was their largest indoor gathering since the pandemic.
Faison stated, "We hadn’t seen a crowd this large in two years." "Eyes were glowing. People just felt good."
In March 2020, the pandemic struck just before Easter. Many churches had to turn to online and televised worship. After the winter coronavirus pandemic, many churches held virtual services last year. Vaccination campaigns were also intensifying. This year, however, more churches have opened their doors to Easter services. There were no COVID-19 restrictions this year. This is in keeping with wider societal trends.
They included Catholic parishes within the Archdiocese Boston. Since last June, most churchgoers have had to attend Mass in person. However, those with serious health issues may still be able to watch via remote. Pastors have been asked for space to allow social distancing in churches.
MC Sullivan is the chief health care ethicist of the archdiocese. He said that celebrating Mass together is crucial to Catholics' faith. The trend in church attendance is upward and parishioners are eager to gather again to celebrate Christ's resurrection.
"It's been amazing to see how well-attended Masses are right now. ... She said that it seems to have brought back a lot people to the idea about what is important to them."
The Rev. was greeted with a rousing reception at St. Peter Claver, St. Paul. There was a lot of applause, whooping and exultant pounding of the wooden pews. Joseph Gifford informed more than 200 faithful that the usual sign of peace in the church was back: no more pandemic-era nodding nor mild handshakes.
Lynette Graham, a long-time parishioner, said that "the place just explodes." "When he said it could be done, people were all over church," Lynette Graham stated. They hugged each other.
The service also featured a highlight: the Cameroonian Choir's first performance since the pandemic. This choir was known for its energetic drumming and West African melodies.
Brendan Banteh, choir director, said that "We're back" and that He had risen. "The ministry in our culture, being one in the church - the priest, people, and the choir - is very celebratory. We felt disconnected because we couldn't get to church. This was something that we hadn't experienced before.
The pandemic had forced the non-denominational church Purpose Church to hold its Easter services outdoors or virtually in Pomona (30 miles east of Los Angeles).
Nearly 4,000 people attended the three Sunday morning services at the newly renovated church sanctuary. Some were still watching via the internet, while others were outside enjoying the spectacles on a 40-foot LED screen. Tina Tong (worship producer at the church of 152 years) said that this was the first time in two years that the 150-member orchestra, band, and choir were present.
She said, "It's sweet homecoming in so much ways." "We are gathering in our new space which is also very special."
A smaller congregation from Southern California - approximately 25 people - met on Pacific Palisades' beach for a sunrise service led by Pastor Joe Ramirez (founder of Revive LA), an inclusive Lutheran congregation.
He said, "We watched as the sun rose, discussed the resurrection, and shared the message of hope that is alive."
Ramirez said that the pandemic has made it easier for "our congregation to be outside" because people are more comfortable and can bring their pets. "We had three dogs in this morning's worship."
As Easter approached, Minnesota's Twin Cities had different approaches to COVID precautions.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, which was a community hub after protests over George Floyd’s death in 2020, removed its mask requirement on Palm Sunday and began to have shoulder-to-shoulder communion at rails instead of in the pews.
The pastor Ingrid Rasmussen stated that Easter attendance would be comparable to pre-pandemic levels, but divided between those who are in the pews and those who join remotely.
Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis was also a landmark architectural structure. However, they were taking a cautious approach in loosening COVID protocols. Masks and social distancing remain in place.
Miriam Samuelson Roberts, the pastor, said that "the gift of being in a same physical space for three years is so grounding et beautiful." It is not something we take for granted.
After Catholic Archbishop Bernard Hebda blessed a fire, hundreds of people lit candles in St. Paul's Cathedral. The Paschal Candle was lit to open the Easter Vigil service on Saturday night.
As candles flickered in darkness, the cathedral's century-old bells echoed. The children were so fascinated by the tiny flames and cantors that they outnumbered the people wearing masks well past 8 p.m. that the archdiocese decided to revoke all COVID protocols. However, the faithful and individual parishes could retain precautions if necessary.
New York City's Middle Collegiate Church held its first Easter service in person since 2019, but not in their historic Manhattan church which was set on fire two months ago.
They are sharing space at East End Temple while they rebuild -- at the same time that the synagogue observes its holy days of Passover.
The Rev. Jacqui Lewis (Middle Collegiate's senior pastor) said that 150 people were allowed to attend the temple, which seats 190. The service was led by the choir singers and musicians. They also took COVID rapid tests.