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Return to Hope

Easter brings optimism to local churches

 

Last Easter was the darkest of days for local churches. Doors were closed, services were virtual and fear of COVID-19 kept families from celebrating together.

While COVID-19 hasn’t gone away yet, there is a much brighter light around this year’s Easter season. Those who are comfortable are able to attend services in person and there is a general sense of celebration among the community.

After being stuck online for nearly a year, St. Olaf Lutheran Church has had limited in-person services for the past four weeks. Lead Pastor Mark Niethammer has seen a boost in energy in the past few weeks and having some folks in the seats for Easter will add to an already merging sense of optimism, even if capacity is still limited.

“We’ve already seen a lot of optimism,” Niethammer said. “We’ve been in person for four weeks now and people are really using the opportunity to be back. There is this sense of hope, joy and general excitement to be back in the sanctuary. There is an overwhelming joy to worship again in a safe manner.”

St. Olaf is holding its usual three Sunday services and it added a fourth Easter service on Saturday to give more people an opportunity to attend. It is also still offering youtube services.

“Things are the same and they are completely different. Last year it was very early on in the pandemic and we had nothing in person,” Niethammer said. “We had a worship service on our YouTube channel and that was it. This year, we can have some people in the sanctuary and people are very excited about it.”

Bethlehem Church is also planning on having an in-person service and an online service. Pastor Paul Steele is planning on holding celebratory service to make the most of the season.

“Within the life of the church, Easter is the main holiday,” Steele said. “It celebrates the central truth of Chrsistianity in the fact that Jesus was resurrected. We want to make this a big deal and we want to make this the focal point.”

Bethlehem has been holding in-person services since July of 2020 and having people in the building has added to the spiritual and mental wellness of all involved.

“It adds to the community feel,” Steele said. “You can’t get that online, no matter how much you interact through the chat features, it doesn’t translate. This shows that we’re in this together.”