CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Last Easter, all celebrations were remote because of the coronavirus, and a snow storm curtailed attendance at Christmas services and masses.
“This is very unusual and, of course last year, Holy Week, even more unusual,” said Father Norm Douglas, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Akron.
The COVID-19 protocols put in place when churches reopened Memorial Day weekend, including distancing, will be challenged as large groups are expected this Easter.
“Knowing you’ll see people that you’ve been close to, it’s a larger crowd,” said Father Douglas. “We know you’ll want to get close and get together. There’s still some concern about that.”
Many churches have extra seats for the expected large crowds, some requiring reservations to prevent overcrowding, others with overflow areas.
Capacity is less than half what it is normally and Father Douglas warns to arrive early.
“With every other pew and some people coming in close to on time, they’re wandering all over the church to find a pew,” he said.
But technology has made it possible for people to avoid the crowd and still worship.
“Ten or 15 years ago, we wouldn’t be able to Zoom. We wouldn’t be able to live stream any of that, so grateful for that,” he said.
Churches seem ready to keep everyone safe with mask policies, hand sanitizers, no communal chalice or holy water in fonts.
“Is there inconvenience? Yeah!,” said Father Douglas. “But the Easter message is those aren’t the final realities.”
Easter falls on Sunday, April 4 for most Christians, although Orthodox Christians will celebrate one week later.