By Mark Dreisonstok
With vaccinations and a sense that the pandemic may be winding down over the next several months, many churches in Falls Church are opening their doors again to on-location indoor and outdoor services. For those who look forward to Easter and what this crucial holiday on the church calendar represents, this is cause for rejoicing.
“Every year there is Easter joy,” said Father Denis Donahue at St. Philip’s Catholic Church in greater Falls Church. “This year the joy will be heightened by having more people present.”
St. Philips is offering five services on Easter Sunday, including two outdoors: English at 10 a.m. and Spanish at 2 p.m. Two of the indoor services (8 a.m. and 4 p.m.) will stream live on Facebook. St. Philip’s has been building up its Sunday Mass attendance over time, with in-person services starting as early as last June. Masks and social distancing are required for all in-person services, whether indoor or outdoors.
Worshipers may also find the bilingual Easter Vigil Service on Saturday evening of interest, although Donahue expressed concern that with social distancing requirements, the church building may not be able to accommodate all those who would like to attend the indoor portions of the liturgy.
Meanwhile, at St. James Catholic Church, Very Reverend Paul Scalia told the News-Press plans have been made to hold Easter Sunday services in the large gymnasium of the Church’s school. Two masses have been added, as many people are expected. As elsewhere, there is social distancing and parishioners are required to wear masks.
Falls Church Episcopal Church, the church which named the Falls Church community, was founded in 1733, and with a building dating back to 1769, is very excited about its on-location Easter Sunday services as the Eucharist is an essential portion of each Episcopal service.
“We have reached a point in the pandemic where we believe it is safe to gather and worship outdoors now. Moving outdoors, we can worship outside together,” Reverend Andy Anderson said. “This is what people really long for, even while still wearing masks and keeping proper distance. They also long to receive the Eucharist, which we are offering in one kind (no sharing the common cup of blessed wine) and the wafers for Communion are offered in individual wax paper containers.”
For those who nonetheless feel uncomfortable with large gatherings, the Episcopal Church offers an on-line option for those who are not ready to get out or to those who cannot worship synchronously. There will thus be a livestream service which will be available on the church’s YouTube Channel anytime afterwards. The church is also offering a 5 p.m. Maundy Service Eucharist outdoors and an on-line Maundy Thursday interactive experience at home with sharing a meal, washing each others’ feet (in imitation of Jesus) with household members, and blessings over bread, other food, wine, or grape juice, also to include music and reflection. Registration is required for those attending the outdoor in-person services.
“We are really excited people are feeling more confident to come out and be at services together again,” said Samantha Wright, communications director for Columbia Baptist Church. Similar to most area churches, Columbia Baptist’s services went virtual in March 2020. Since last Fall, in addition to virtual services, the church has been hosting small groups of in-person worshipers, requiring registration, maintaining six feet of social distancing at all times, and requiring masks.
This Sunday, however, Columbia is welcoming a larger number of worshipers for in-person Easter Sunday services — all in compliance with the Governor’s latest Amended Executive Order. The reservation system of the church assists with groupings needed to maintain proper social distance. While not quite returning to a more casual pre-pandemic church attendance, the gradual resumption of in-person services will make it a happy Easter for many.
Lastly, Falls Church Presbyterian Church, founded nearly 150 years ago in 1873 and still located in its original (though now expanded) building, is celebrating Easter with in-person services. One such service will take place with members bringing folding chairs and setting them up at a social distance in the parking lot, whereas the other will be in scenic Frady Park across the street. Masks and distance will also be required for the Frady Park sunrise service. The sunrise service in Frady Park is at 7 a.m. The parking lot service is at 11 a.m. In the past, Falls Church Presbyterian has drawn crowds of worshipers for Easter Sunday congregating in the hundreds. Easter Sunday 2021 will be a special day, as it is the first such gathering at the Church in more than a year.
Regardless of one’s faith or confession, with each Easter comes spring, brighter days, and hope, and thus these services will mean more than usual as hopes for the end of this pandemic increase the advent of vaccines and new possibilities for social gatherings in 2021.