Easter Sunday church services adjust to 15 per cent capacity lockdown rule

Easter Sunday church services in Ontario looked a little different during 2021 due to the 15 per cent capacity lockdown restriction.

Forward Church’s service in Cambridge looked more like a concert, with the goal of keeping it upbeat on the important day.

“I like to call it our main event of the year,” said co-lead pastor Kirk Giles.

While the new rules are limiting for attendance, many church members say they’re just happy to congregate in any way.

“Normally we’re watching on a screen when we’re in lockdown,” said Nancy Halloran. “To be able to congregate together and to hear it live is always a better place to be.”

Since the pandemic began, places of worship in the province had to deal with different levels of restrictions, from full lockdowns, to 30 per cent capacity, and now to 15 per cent.

Two Easters ago, the crowd at Forward Church looked much different.

“Would’ve had about a couple thousand people come to the doors on Easter Sunday,” said Giles.

For Forward Church, 15 per cent capacity means about 240 people who are pre-registered, screened before entering, and seated physically distanced.

“Being able to go to church in a safe manner brings just a little bit of normalcy back to life,” said Josh Nichols. “Hope is running dry for a lot of people.”

Hope was a crucial theme of the Easter service, as the holiday for Christians is a celebration following a dark time.

“I think that more than ever the message of hope is needed for people,” said Giles. “Celebrating the fact that he died on the cross but rose from the dead three days later.

“We know that death does not have to have the final say. There’s hope for our lives here on Earth and there’s hope beyond death as well.”

Members say the message is especially needed on the first weekend of the province-wide shutdown, as it runs parallel with some of the hardships many face today.