SoCal worshippers relieved to return to church for Easter services

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Improvements in COVID-19 numbers and progress in vaccination across Southern California have led to the easing of restrictions - including physical attendance at church services in time for Easter.

Churchgoers and pastors were relieved to return to in-person services after many churches were forced to hold Easter services virtually last year.

"It warms my heart," said Pastor Greg Laurie at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside. "It makes me feel great to know that people are at church again and they are able to talk to one another again. We are designed for community to be together."

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The Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels welcomed 130 worshippers per Mass on Easter Sunday, though it normally has a capacity of 3,000.

For many the pandemic shutdowns have been a test and a renewal of their faith.

"I think through the testing, that's when you grow," said churchgoer Ariel Gavriliuc of Riverside. "You don't grow when life is easy."

Churches are taking steps to offer socially-distanced services with both indoor and outdoor options.

"It was one year ago the unthinkable happened and we couldn't meet at Easter and now we are back," said Pastor Paul Eaton with Harvest Christian Fellowship. "There is a sense of optimism. The sun is coming up. It truly is a sunrise service. Not only here physically but in our hearts. We're ready to get back to church."

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