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For Easter: crowds may be smaller at churches but faith stronger

After a year of a national health pandemic, people are heading back to church here in Pickens County and last week a Pew Research Center study also revealed that life in our religious congregations across the U.S. is slowly edging back to normal. But the COVID-19 pandemic is still a major presence in our houses of worship as many used-to-be church-goers plan to stay home this Easter for a second year. 

Overall, 62 percent of U.S. Christians say they normally attend religious services on Easter Sunday. Even one-in-10 people who identify as religiously unaffiliated say they usually go to church on Easter. But this year, just four-in-10 Christians (39%), along with 5% of adults who do not identify as Christian say they plan to attend Easter services in person.

Cases are falling and vaccinations are rising for the virus that has so far killed a confirmed 58 Pickens countians and is the “probable” cause of another 16 local deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. With Easter approaching this weekend, many Christians see hope in getting back into our churches safely.

According to the Pew survey, Americans are “increasingly confident they can safely go to services at a church.” And the percentage who say they actually have attended religious services - in person - in the past month is slightly higher than it was last summer.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean congregations are completely back to normal. And this Easter promises to be the second year in a row of a highly atypical Christian holiday to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Mask-wearing, social distancing, and viewing worship services online has been the norm for the past year but church-goers seem ready to get back to some semblance of normalcy in all aspects of their lives, especially when it comes to church.

People miss their church families and the weekly sermons and songs - no doubt about that.

Church is about worship. But it is also about community and a family of faith and that is one of the most important things to many of us, and getting back to worshipping as we have for most of our lives is important. Of course personal safety is paramount and this year, three-quarters of U.S. adults who normally attend religious services, according to Pew, now say “they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ confident they can safely do so without spreading or catching the coronavirus. That’s up 12 percentage points from when this question was last asked in July 2020. 

The survey shows that more people are going back to church. “Roughly four-in-10 people who typically attend religious services at least once or twice a month say they actually have done so, in person, during the past month - up nine points since last summer. This month 42% of people said they attended religious services in person, up from 33% who did last July and a full 76% of people said they felt they could safely attend church without catching or spreading COVID-19, up from 64% last July. 

Interestingly, of all the horrible things associated with the pandemic - death, job loss, economic crisis -  there was a silver lining in the Pew survey. “Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults queried said their religious faith has grown stronger as a result of the pandemic, while four percent say their religious faith has been weakened.” 

As time passes and this virus becomes a terrible footnote to history, hope for normalcy continues and the desire to return to our church homes becomes more in our reach. So as we start to think about how we will celebrate Easter this year, remember, as Jesus’ would teach us, there is always and forever more hope. 

Happy Easter from the Progress staff.