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Churchgoers celebrate Easter season together as stay-home orders ease

This Good Friday was a time to worship together, after last year's stay-at-home orders came just before Easter and forced many to worship virtually for months.

TACOMA, Wash. — Pastors welcomed members of their flocks face-to-face after a year of virtual services for Good Friday service.

The service was a collaborative effort by pastors from multiple churches from around Tacoma, to offer a message of hope for the community gathered at Allen AME Church. Friday's service also marked the first time that some were in a church building in over a year, due to the stay-at-home orders in response to COVID-19.

“This time last year, the governor had closed all houses of worship, and to be closed on an Easter Sunday morning was beyond belief,” said Anthony Steele, pastor of Allen AME Church, located in Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood.

But now that the restrictions have been lifted, worshippers can finally express their faith with people they’ve only been able to see through a screen for over a year.

“To see people’s faith is actually really good, to physically see people. We have Zoom and everything, but this is a good time to actually see the believers,” said Wanda Griffin, who attends Allen AME Church.

Worshippers also felt that coming together after a year as tumultuous as 2020 was more important than ever.

“I believe it’s more important now than ever, especially with the pandemic, because according to our faith, we’re supposed to manifest that in our actions and how we live,” said Matthew White, who attends Church of the Living God. “Even though it’s a pandemic, we want to make sure that we’re safe and careful, and do things in order, and we also want to respect the assembly, and we always want to remember to give God honor and glory for everything He’s done, especially in times like now."

But the spread of COVID-19 can’t be ignored. Pierce County reported 205 new COVID-19 cases Friday, with two additional deaths, and health officials are urging people to stay responsible.

Faith leaders here are encouraging people to come out this weekend to celebrate Resurrection Sunday, but to make sure to stay safe. That means mask wearing and social distancing both in the sanctuary and the vestibule.

Some churches are also taking reservations to help control numbers. The church staff at Allen AME also assured KING 5 that they will take all precautions, including temperature checks at the door, to keep churchgoers safe.

So while pastors take precautions, they’re also hoping they can keep people encouraged during these hard times.

“I wanted the people to know that even with the suffering that we had in 2020, even now, in parts of 2021, that the story doesn’t end there, but that it goes on to Sunday, when we get up,” Steele said. “So I want them to have hope and to have the hope of knowing that, no matter what we’ve been through, around this world, we can get up.”