DALLAS - Sunday will mark the first time in more than a year that many North Texas churches will allow fully vaccinated parishioners to gather inside without masks.
It is welcome news for churches that have tread cautiously throughout the pandemic.
For churches that have followed CDC guidance throughout the pandemic, it feels like the dawn of a new day.
"I had to do a double take to make sure it was real," said Father Joshua Whitfield, pastor of St. Rita Catholic Church.
Whitfield said they have followed CDC guidance from the beginning, and that will continue with the revised guidelines Sunday.
"Grateful of all that went into this moment of masklessness, but I'm still like everyone else, a bit nervous. Hopeful this is a genuine step forward.
One of the first changes parishioners at St. Rita's will see is instead of a sign saying masks are required, it will say masks are encouraged.
"Everything we do should be part of our intentional concern to watch out for each other," Whitfield added.
While some churches, like First Baptist Dallas and Prestonwood Baptist, made masks optional during worship last summer, other churches believe it is still too soon to give up their mask requirements.
"We want to remain cautious and protect people," St. Luke Community United Methodist Church Pastor Richie Butler said.
St. Luke Community United Methodist Church is still holding virtual services, but Pastor Butler is working on a plan to bring back his flock.
"We will still expect people, when they come to worship, to wear a mask. We will slowly move to take it off as they feel comfortable," Bulter said.
It's a decision he does not take lightly.
"We all, I don't want to say hate the masks, but I’m a pastor, I want to see people their eyes, facial expression," he said. "It has taken a part of our humanity, losing the mask helps us regain some of that."
Butler has turned his church parking lot into a vaccination hub for the East Dallas Owenwood neighborhood.
Now he feels, with a return to in-person worship in sight, the efforts are paying off.
"Why do people go to sporting event when can watch it on TV, it is because there is nothing like in-person," Bulter added.