HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - This year’s celebrations for Easter Sunday bring new hope for some churchgoers in the Richmond area as local churches open their doors for in-person worship.
Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Henrico County was one of the churches that kept its doors open for Easter with limited capacity. They also broadcasted their services for those that wanted to stay at home.
Ben Gutierrez, senior pastor for Grove Avenue Baptist Church, remembers being one of nine people inside the church for last year’s Easter celebrations. This year, he appreciates seeing people back in the pews.
“There were a couple of moments in the service where I had to control my own emotion because I was overwhelmed with joy, because I had not seen some of the attendees here for an entire year,” said Gutierrez. “We also had a number of visiting guests whose churches were still closed down.”
Gutierrez says they had two Easter services booked through online reservations for people that wanted to attend the service in-person.
“Our auditorium can seat approximately 1,200 technically, so we reached 50% capacity in our second service, and we opened up the first service and had members move to the first service,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez also says the church was sanitized between services.
“We fogged and wiped down all of the pews, all of the equipment, all of the microphones,” Gutierrez said.
For the last 16 years, Tara Cahoon has been coming to Grove Avenue Baptist Church. She said her family’s Easter last year was different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We all went in front of the tree in the front yard and took the picture, but we were just in our pajamas just to note that it was different,” she said. “Not the normal Easter Sunday.”
Cahoon says she’s thankful to be able to come back in-person to church and marks this Easter as another step toward moving beyond the pandemic.
“Our families got vaccinated, so we’re looking forward to moving past this,” Cahoon said.
Since restrictions were lifted, Gutierrez says they’ve had 15,000 people come to their building. In this time, they’ve had no cases of the COVID-19 virus traced back to their church.
Gutierrez says they will continue to use their online reservation system for in-person church services.
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