Local churches rent stadiums for a socially-distant Easter Sunday service

ByElaina Athans and Chris Hemric via WTVD logo
Saturday, April 3, 2021
Churches rent stadiums for a socially-distant Easter Sunday service
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With more people vaccinated, churches are planning to hold Easter Sunday services at local arenas so that attendees can remain socially distant.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Folks have been filing into the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral on Good Friday. With more people being vaccinated and COVID-19 cases slipping, the church is offering Christians the opportunity to observe the holiday in-person.

Every other pew was closed off and parishioners being asked social distancing while taking in the service.

The cathedral only held a fraction of what it normally would on a Good Friday. Usually, more than 2,000 people would attend, but with COVID, roughly 600 attendees are allowed inside.

Monsignor David Brockman is thrilled to welcome back parishioners.

"To be able to pray these mysteries with them, it's really the centerpiece with our Catholic faith," said Brockman. "It's beautiful to be able to do that and here in this sacred space."

There were virtually no in-person services last Easter, the pandemic was just beginning to infiltrate communities. For those who still don't feel comfortable leaving their home, some churches are sticking to services online this Easter.

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Other churches are getting creative for the Holy Day.

"Enloe High School opened up their space to us so we're renting out the stadium," said Hayes Barton Baptist Church Senior Pastor Kristen Muse.

Hayes Barton Baptist Church doesn't have a lot of outdoor space at its location in the heart of Five Points.

Two months ago, clergy leaders began scouting alternative spots.

"We couldn't imagine going two years without having an Easter service where larger number of our congregation could gather," said Muse.

There will be an outdoor service Sunday starting at 11 a.m. at Enloe's stadium; the congregation will be singing hymns and celebrating while social distancing.

"People in our congregation haven't really seen each other for over a year, so we're hoping for us to bring glory to God and just to have that joyful Easter celebration time together," said Muse.

Hayes Barton Baptist is expecting about 500 people Sunday. Parishioners are making reservations and Muse says there are still a few openings for those interested.

Easter service gone virtual

Bethel AME Zion Church in Spring Lake said they will be continuing to hold virtual services for the foreseeable future. Pastor Vincent Long says it's a decision he has thought long on and prayed about. So this Sunday's message will be a special message of hope.

"We can rise up from whatever situation we may find ourselves in so to me and we ARE going to have service at six am it takes on an entirely new dimension," the church pastor said.

Many of the parishioners at the church are elderly and even though most have gotten vaccines, Pastor Long says he's not ready to potentially risk anyone's health.

"We may see the finish line but there is no sense and it's my estimation thru prayer that there is no sense to celebrate prematurely and not make it to the finish line," Long said.

The church has other events like a drive-thru Easter basket giveaway for the kids and more events planned for their online services.

For the church, it's about more than just being together on the holiday weekend it's about taking care of each other and showing their strength and resolve as a community during a still unconventional time.

"I pray that we learn new ways to engage with the community new ways beyond our insulated communities. New communities, new people, all people because god loves everyone."

The sunrise service can be viewed live on the Bethel AME Zion Churches Facebook page this Sunday beginning at 6 a.m.