SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — As Easter Sunday approaches, local church leaders are saying what a difference a year makes.
Last Easter, COVID-19 lockdowns were just taking effect, causing the cancellation of most Easter church services.
Good Friday services were sparsely attended at the Capital Christian Center this year, but that’s by design. Health rules limit church attendance to 25% of capacity.
Every other row was blocked off and the church urged that only family members sit together.
Yet, it was a far cry from last year when Easter events were canceled entirely.
“Going into Easter not being able to gather people, it felt really oppressive almost,” said Pastor Rick Cole.
Since the pandemic started, many churches have perfected video streaming and online alternatives to in-person services.
But for 2021’s Good Friday crowd, nothing beat worshipping with those who are like-minded in a house of God.
Josephine Stuart said worshipping remotely doesn’t compare.
“It’s a lot difference,” she said. “I feel at home here. On TV, it’s different.”
“It heightens the whole experience when we’re able to be together,” Pastor Cole told FOX40.
With loosened restrictions, Fremont Presbyterian Church planned an outdoor sunrise service for a couple of hundred people at Paradise Beach on the river just down the street.
A series of Easter services are planned for later on Sunday in its sanctuary, with masking, social distancing and sanitizing protocols in place.
No one really knows how many people will be attending Sunday church services, but Fremont Presbyterian is preparing its patio for overflow crowds for two of its services. A third will be held in the patio by itself.
“So, we’re doing everything we can to protect the health and safety of our attendees, and also to worship and honor God at the same time,” said Fremont Presbyterian Executive Minister Mark Eshoff.
Capital Christian Center handed out communion packets with a sealed wafer and juice to avoid human contact during the traditional Christian ritual.
Many churches fully expect that some will still want to attend Easter services remotely for safety and mobility reasons, but they also feel things are moving in the right direction.
“It’s like a feeling of spring,” Cole said. “It’s hope, it’s resurrection, it’s new things. So we’re excited about this year for sure.”
“It was temporary, and we’re really proud of our congregation and our community for hanging in there for the long haul,” Eshoff told FOX40.
A schedule of Easter Sunday events and services can be found below.
Capital Christian Center
8:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. – Water Baptism
9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. – Service
11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. – Service
Fremont Presbyterian Church
6:30 a.m. – Easter Sunrise Service at Glen Hall Park
8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. – Classic Services at the Sanctuary
11:30 a.m. – Modern Service on the patio