VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Several local churches say they are in a better position this year than last for the Easter holiday. They still, however, have to adapt as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
"Easter is a time that’s filled with hope, and people need hope right now,” Kimberlee Westlake, the online campus pastor at Coastal Community Church in Virginia Beach, said.
That hope is strong for worshippers looking to celebrate a second Easter during the pandemic.
“Everybody was saying, 'Two weeks and we'll be back,'" Eddie Antle, a pastor at Waters Edge Church’s Williamsburg Campus, said. “Here we are - a year and two weeks."
Coastal Community Church and Waters Edge Church said they are expecting more people on Easter as the new easing of limits on gatherings go into effect Thursday, April 1. They also said this move is an optimistic sign.
“We’re adding a second Easter service so that we can get more people in the building,” Westlake said. “A Minecraft Easter egg hunt that’s been built so that kids can participate in a fun activity from whatever device they join on."
Every year, Coastal Community Church performs Easter baptisms in a metal tub. As the pandemic continues, they've had to use a pool at a local hotel instead.
“We always love to incorporate baptisms into our Easter services, and this year,” Westlake explained, "with all the protocols in place, we had to make that look a little different."
At Waters Edge Church, they do not have the same traditions each year. Antle said they prefer to change up the Easter activities.
“In the past, we have had a helicopter drop eggs for families, and we did that in Newport News,” Antle explained.
They will still have Easter eggs, but the format on how they will be handed out will be different.
“This year we wanted to do a little Easter egg hunt for families, but that’s changing and morphing into a grab-bag,” Antle said.
Other changes the churches have seen include new members from across the United States and internationally thanks to the online services - this in stark contrast to a report recently released by Gallup showing church memberships have dropped by about 50%.
“I feel like we’ve been fortunate with what we have,” Westlake said. “We’re just making the most of what we have been blessed with.”