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Churches prepare for first in-person Easter services since pandemic began

For some churches, this is the first time they have welcomed their congregation in over a year.
Published: Apr. 3, 2021 at 9:25 PM CDT
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DANE COUNTY, ROCK COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - Churches in Wisconsin are holding the first in-person Easter services since the pandemic began—it has been two years since congregations were able to celebrate the holiday in-person. Some churches are welcoming people inside for the first time in over a year.

Janesville’s Rock Prairie Presbyterian Church has been closed since March of 2020, even as other churches gradually opened their doors.

“We said we would not open up until it was 5 percent positivity rate or less in Rock County,” said Pastor Gail Monsma.

Monsma said they made the decision to remain closed to keep their congregation and community safe.

“We also were very carefully watching the hospital beds and the numbers and what was happening for first responders and our healthcare workers,” Monsma explained.

The church opened their doors for the first time on Palm Sunday, welcoming about 90 people.

“Emotional, exciting, yeah, a lot of tears. It was awesome,” Monsma described.

After that first service, Monsma and other leaders have been preparing for in-person Easter services. Precautions will include masks and social distancing, and the church also has options for people not comfortable coming in person.

“We have an FM transmitter so people were allowed to worship in their cars,” Monsma explained.

While Rock Prairie Presbyterian has held just a few in-person services this year, churches in the Diocese of Madison have been able to hold in-person mass since May 2020. However, the Diocese said some people have come back to service for the first time during Holy Week.

“A lot of joy and expectation and relief,” said Bishop Donald Hying, adding, “Being vaccinated has given them confidence they can come to church.”

Hying said health guidelines for Easter services remain the same as other in-person mass. The Diocese has been implementing capacity limits, and limiting congregational singing.

“Even when you’re coming up for communion, that there should be some distance between folks,” Hying added.

Church leaders said whether people are coming in-person for the first or fiftieth time, this year’s Easter Sunday is special.

“Easter for Christians is the absolute cornerstone of our faith,” Hying said.

Monsma added, “It’s a wonderful time for us to come back and rise and worship once again.”

Church leaders are excited about in-person services this weekend, but many said they are still streaming services online for people who are more comfortable joining at home.

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