After missing out in 2020, Minnesota churches plan safe Easter ceremonies for Sunday

The pandemic cancelled many Easter festivities last year, but with more people getting vaccinated, many are gathering this year for the spring celebration.

Many churches were only able to hold services online last Easter, but this year they are finding creative ways to celebrate the holiday in person.

On Good Friday at the Basilica of St. Mary, Catholics in Minneapolis were commemorating the death of Jesus Christ. But the time-honored tradition of celebrating his resurrection together is also coming back to life.

"Having a liturgy for an empty church is not what's supposed to happen," said Johan Van Parys with the Basilica. "So to have at least a small group of people here is a wonderful thing."

The Basilica will have a number of in-person masses on Easter Sunday. Although they will be capped at 450 people, well below 50 percent of the building's capacity. Church members have to pre-register, get their temperatures checked, wear masks and obey social distancing recommendations while following along using electronic leaflets on their phones.

But they will be able to pray face-to-face instead of just online like last Easter.

"Even today, everyone had this excitement about being able to do this together," said Van Parys.

Meanwhile, Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins is bringing its Easter service closer to the heavens. Pastors will preach from the roof of the house of worship to the congregation parked in their cars below.

"The passing of the peace is harder because of COVID," said Pastor John Nelson. "But the way we do it in our parking lot is everyone honks for Jesus and passes the peace to one another through their honking."

The church has been holding drive-in services since last Easter because it was the only way its 1,200 members could get together safely during the pandemic.

Even though it will be no sermon on the mount, Mother Nature appears to be giving this year's outdoor service her blessing.

"Last Easter, it was snowing and I was wearing ski goggles as we began our worship service and our trumpeters were freezing their fingers and their instruments," said Pastor Nelson. "So this year we're delighted we can be in flip flops and shorts as we are on the rooftops preaching and leading worship."

Both churches say some of their new practices like streaming services online and the drive-in service have become so popular, they will continue after the pandemic is over.