VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — This Easter Sunday, churches across Hampton Roads are celebrating the holiday for the first time since the pandemic began.
Virginia’s stay-at-home orders went into effect just before the Easter holiday, forcing churches to close their doors.
“Our church is really excited to get back together. We are. We’re ready to get back to normal,” said Leon Dunning, Lead Pastor of Salt Church.
Last year, churches were forced to get creative. As coronavirus cases rose, Governor Ralph Northam issued a strict stay-at-home order.
Dunning said he partnered with another church to go virtual, hosting an online-only Easter service.
“I think the hardest part was not being able to gather and celebrate,” he said. “And there’s a spiritual element to it as well that having to stay at home, doesn’t meet.”
This year, worshippers are back together in person, and there’s a renewed sense of hope.
“This year, things are starting to open up again,” Dunning said. “We’re excited about that.”
But they’re not letting their guard down. Hand sanitizers and facemasks are available for everyone, and families are asked to social distance.
Dunning said online service is still an option for those who want to celebrate the holiday but don’t feel comfortable gathering at church, just yet.
“We still have a lot of people that are out, we have a lot of people that are scared still,” he said.
Salt Church is also offering two different services, which makes social distancing a little easier.
“We’re trying to follow everything we can but we don’t want to quit having church; and throughout this, our church has done our best to stay open the entire time because we know the importance of being together,” Dunning said. “We’re not meant to be alone. We’re not meant to be in isolation.”
After the church services, the congregation of Salt Church hit the oceanfront for an outdoor Easter egg hunt on the beach.