Tampa Bay churches create COVID-19 safety plans ahead of expected Easter crowds

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – As more and more people are vaccinated many are also eager to get back to church, especially as Easter weekend nears.

It’s one of the busiest times of the year for churches when people come together to worship, but as eager as people may be to get back in the pews, many churches are sticking to safety guidelines while we are still in this COVID-19 pandemic.

“This time last year for Easter, COVID as a pandemic was fresh. We were trying to figure out how to have Holy Week,” said Pastor RJ Stevenson at New Saint Paul AME Church.

What a difference a year can make. Over at New Saint Paul AME Church in Tampa, they have mostly shut their doors on Sundays. Recently they opened up the building as a computer lab for students who need internet to do their school work.

On Sundays, they’ve stuck to online broadcasting for the sermons and worship.

“Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Easter are considered the church Super Bowls. Easter is the epitome of everything you try to do all year long. Easter gives you an opportunity to connect with the community like no other saturated time during the year,” said Pastor Stevenson.

On Sunday the pastor sets up and gets ready to preach. Only a handful of members are allowed in to help with music, lights, and streaming. Looking at the positive, he now has members of his church across the country watching online for his spiritual guidance.

He admits that Easter Sunday is one of the busiest and best times to reach believers, but for at least one more year they will be asking the majority of his congregation to stay safe and watch from home.

“Until our bishop says we can go back in, he’s asked us to be very cautious of the CDC guidelines. To not put our members of our congregation and community at risk, and to be responsible as a church. Although we’re excited about gathering again we have to be responsible for the lives that we serve,” said the Stevenson.

Other churches are opening up their doors but they are spreading people out, requiring masks, and limiting some of the services. For example, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, they will have mass this weekend but you have to make reservations online.

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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