PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Churches across Central Illinois opened their doors Sunday, April 4, while maintaining masking and social distancing guidelines.
For some, Easter Sunday is considered the holiest day of the year. It represents the day in Christian theology when Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Local church leaders had to navigate how to celebrate the holiday while keeping congregations safe. For many, it was a return to normalcy to spend a holiday in church. However, some said this year was still very different.
“I never thought that we’d have to reserve a spot at church,” said churchgoer Jessica Houle.
At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Peoria, parishioners were asked to reserve a spot at one of the various Easter services in order to maintain the 25 percent capacity inside. Church leaders said this also ensures proper contact tracing if the need were to arise.
“We’re just really excited to actually be able to be back in person,” said Jenny Replogle, Co-Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. “Being able to take part in communion and worship together is just such a huge part of our tradition. I know it was something we missed greatly.”
Houle said being back at church renewed some hope that the pandemic may get better.
“It’s hugely special to be able to share just the hope of this day with everyone,” Houle said.
Churchgoers at Richwoods Christian Church in Peoria were also required to register ahead of time for Easter services.
Lead Paster Chad Manbeck said while online church has been manageable, in-person worship is his preference.
“Although we may work with online, we did the best we could with it, the church is most beautiful when it’s people together,” Manbeck said. “It’s literally the gathering. And so you have that energy and that vibe. People are so happy to be back. A lot of people, today, it’s their first time back in over a year.”
One Richwoods churchgoer, Jennifer Keffler, said she was excited to worship together.
“It is such a beautiful sight to be able to walk into that sanctuary and to see so many people
here,” Keffler said.