BOISE, Idaho — After the COVID-19 pandemic forced Easter celebrations to go virtual in 2020, churches across the Treasure Valley are preparing to safely hold in-person services on Sunday.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 25, 2020, just weeks before the Easter holiday. The order forced many churches to hold their services virtually or simply postpone them.
While the stay-at-home order is no longer in effect, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend practicing religious holiday customs at home or online. Those who are planning to celebrate with others, however, should consider gathering outdoors.
Cathedral Of The Rockies has been hosting online services only since Easter 2020. After an entire year, they have come up with a creative way to offer in-person Easter services safely.
“We do have two new options: you can go to drive-up service at the Amity campus, which you can literally stay in your car and listen on the radio,” Reverend Duane Anders said. “Or here downtown we have three worship services on our empty lot.”
The church will hold three outdoor services in a grass lot and those in attendance will need to reserve a spot in advance, wear masks, and social distance.
The church has been monitoring the COVID-19 case counts and number of people getting vaccinated statewide.
“This is just the beginning of saying okay, we are slowly starting to recreate what we are used to but we are still watching the numbers and watching the signs, and we don’t want to do any harm," Anders said.
Anders said tomorrow will be a big day for him and all attendees.
“I anticipate it will be a pretty emotional day tomorrow," he said. "I’m a pretty emotional guy myself, I will probably cry through the whole service, just gathering, hearing people sing even with their masks on."
For Foothills Christian Church in Garden City, however, in-person services never went away.
“I think that in-person services are critically important because it's who we are as human beings,” Pastor Doug Peake said.
At the church, those who choose to wear a mask and social distance can do so, but it is not a requirement.
“We have 20-30% of the people who will be wearing masks and the rest won’t," Peake said. "We have a number of people who have been vaccinated and a number of people who have already had [COVID-19] since it's been going on for about a year now."
Peake said the in-person turnout has been lower than usual but online services have seen a record number of viewers.
“We just kind of stayed on course and did the best that we can," Peake said. “We didn’t want to add to the problem, so we encourage people to listen to, learn, and to follow as much guidance and science that we can. But at the same time we didn’t want to overreact in fear to the situation.”
Both Peak and Anders agree that however people decide to celebrate this Easter, they hope that individuals make the best decision for themselves.
“Our goal is to help people live their faith, understand who they are, and make their own decision,” Peake said.
“Do Easter the way that works for you right now," Anders said. "If that's to worship online, find your church online and worship online. If your church is open, continue to social distance and wear a mask, love your neighbor and do no harm and together we will get through this."
Information on services for Foothills Church can be found here.
Information on services for Cathedral Of The Rockies can be found here.
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