Worship amid a pandemic: Church leaders get ready for Easter Sunday

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Those at Riverbend Church in Austin are expecting up to 4,000 visitors this Easter Sunday. Leaders with the church say since reintroducing in-person services last fall attendance has been slowly growing.

Yet, in-person attendance does not compare to the growth in virtual viewers they have gained over the last year. At present, the in-person church services are at about 20% to 30% capacity or up to 800 visitors in one Sunday over the course of two services.

However, Riverbend Lead Pastor Dave Haney believes they could see a spike in visitors this Easter weekend. Two years ago on Easter Sunday, they had 7,000 visitors. This Sunday, church leaders don’t expect as many but they do have plans to spread out people across various buildings and rooms to keep everyone socially distant and safe.

“We’re navigating this very carefully,” he said. “But we also don’t want to live in fear. I mean, we have been afraid for a year.”

That’s why the mother of two (and soon to be three), Katrina returned to her church in Georgetown last July.

“We as a family have chosen not to live in fear so being with people and being able to worship with people is more important,” she said.

She has been going to church every Sunday since last summer.

“Our mental health was suffering so we kind of took it upon ourselves to try to live life as normal as possible,” she explained.

Katrina said her church allows visitors to attend as they feel comfortable — with or without masks.

At Riverbend Church, Haney said they will continue to require masks and space out seating. They plan to hold three services on Easter Sunday — and limit capacity to about 50%.

The longtime pastor expects this weekend could be a first for many looking to connect.

“For me spiritually Easter is the ultimate representation of new hope, of a new day, of a second chance, a new beginning,” Haney said. “I mean rising from the dead it’s just as dramatic an image of a new beginning as you can have.”

On Saturday, church leaders plan to have an Easter egg hunt for families. At present, 400 families or around 1,000 people are registered to attend.

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