DALLAS - For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, many North Texas Christians gathered for in-person church services Easter Sunday.
About 1,500 people attended Easter services at Klyde Warren Park in Dallas.
Two separate services were hosted by St. Luke Community Church and Pastor Richie Butler about two hours apart.
Attendees were required to wear masks and stay in designated sections marked off by cones.
The services also included dance and music performances.
The church encouraged visitors to donate to a housing relief fund to help those financially impacted by the pandemic.
Many churches were unable to hold Easter services last year due to the pandemic.
This year, there’s somewhat of a return to the way things used to be.
Still, there are even more obstacles some churches are working to overcome.
Easter Sunday is considered the most important holiday by many Christians. Many are excited to be back worshiping with others.
"I miss being in worship and just being around people and being able to just worship our God, together," Kristine Lopez said.
Lopez, a Gateway Church attendee, remembers last year, as the early stages of the pandemic kept people away from churches for the holiday.
"So, I’m an extroverted person and I love being around people, so being quarantined and being forced to be introverted for a season, God showed me that he’s been there with me every step of the way and that he’s never left me," she said.
Church leaders sense the excitement.
"It feels incredible to be with people," said Derek Dunn, associate campus pastor for Gateway Church Southlake. "There’s a great desire for people to be connected."
It’s felt across many North Texas churches, even while met with additional challenges.
"COVID and all of these viruses, everything that would keep us from experiencing the fullness of life, your days are numbered," First United Methodist Coppell Reverend Tom Palmer said. "We really need this message of hope. Message of love through the risen Christ."
First United Methodist Coppell was worshiping indoors and in-person, but burst pipes during the Texas freeze led to a flooding of its sanctuary.
Many churchgoers rushed to help with repairs, but there’s still plenty of work left to do. So, in the meantime, they’re worshiping outside.
"God is still here and God is still working," churchgoer Deanna Goodman said.
"And I think that people in the community are longing to be together again," Matthew and Sara Weeks added.
The Weeks said they’re now vaccinated and ready to be with their fellow believers.
"Well, I work at a hospital, so I was really consented about the members of our community. I didn’t want to expose anyone unnecessarily to COVID," Sara said.
Looking back, some said it’s been a devastating period of time since last Easter.
"I think worshipping is an opportunity to come together with the father, but also as a father of two, just being able to come together as a family and just being able to be there with the whole family just meant the world," Jacobo Ramos said.
Some said it’s helped them realize what’s most important in life, and that’s what they’re celebrating this Easter Sunday.
Churches are allowed to operate at full capacity in Texas, and have been able to for quite some time, as Gov. Greg Abbott exempted churches from occupancy restrictions.
There are still plenty of churches that are restricting worship to online only.