WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Houses of worship across South Florida were unable to celebrate Easter in person last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, many are making adjustments to ensure a safe and fulfilling Holy Week.
Many congregations are still hosting online services as the pandemic continues, but many houses of worship have made significant adjustments over the last year to find a safe approach to celebrate the holiday.
The CDC is offering guidance to observe religious holidays.
They say worshippers who are fully vaccinated can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.
Safer Ways to Observe Religious Holidays
Attending gatherings to observe religious and spiritual holidays increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.
The safest way for unvaccinated people to observe religious and spiritual holidays this year is to gather virtually or be outside and at least 6 feet apart from others.
- Enjoy traditional meals with those who live with you
- Practice religious holiday customs at home
- Prepare and deliver a meal to a neighbor
- Watch virtual religious and cultural performances
- Attend religious ceremonies virtually
If you plan to celebrate with others, being outdoors is always safer than staying indoors.
COVID-19 concerns prompted Trinity United Methodist Church in West Palm Beach to continue hosting services online.
With her daughters by her side, Pastor Gewanda Parker is planning for another Easter apart from her congregation.
It’s been more than a year since the congregation gathered in person.
"Our congregation has a population of elderly people. And so with that, it was very important to me to make sure that we provided safety for them," Parker said. "We cannot do that in the midst of coming together, brick and mortar, so to speak."
With current limitations on vaccine eligibility, members made the decision to keep services online.
"We're waiting for more confidence. We're also waiting for more evidence," Parker said. "We're also waiting to see when our congregation is ready to make the transition. We don't want to rush back in."
Debbye Raing, who has been a part of the congregation since 1954, agrees.
"It will be another holiday, separated from each other, in the brick and mortar, as they call it, but we are in touch with each other. We are making phone calls. We're dropping notes. … We know things will get better, eventually," Raing said.
A new Pew Research survey finds religious congregations are slowly returning. However, just four in 10 Christians surveyed plan to attend church on Easter.
Many services are still being streamed online.
Parker leans on her faith that better days are ahead.
"We've had to experience pain and grief and loneliness and sadness. But then, there is hope, the vaccines there's hope. There's hope that things are changing," Parker said.