This is the second Easter during the pandemic, and churches across the Central Coast are hosting services and festivities using a hybrid model and modifications to the age old traditions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On Saturday, San Luis Obispo Nazarane Church held a masked and socially-distanced Easter Egg Hunt at Islay Hill Park.
“We used to have a situation where the kids would gather round and have a store, [but now] we’re going with a separation. We don’t get the eggs back, we try to keep the social distancing, and the masks going on,” explained Pastor Doug Smee.
For services at San Luis Obispo Nazarane Church, they employ a hybrid model where a certain capacity of people can worship indoors and others can join in via live-stream.
Other area churches, including St. Louis de Monfort church in Santa Maria and Nativity of Our Lady Catholic Community in San Luis Obispo, said they use a similar model.
According to Father Aiden Peter Rossiter, the Pastor of St. Louis de Monfort Parish, churchgoers have been able to worship indoors for about six weeks.
“We can have up to two hundred people in here and we’ve taped off every other bench and marked out where people can sit. Everything is all organized, people are taken to their seats, so we make sure we use the space as best we can according to social distancing. Everybody wears masks,” explained Father Rossiter.
Upon entering the church, members sign their names in case of the need for contact tracing.
Everyone uses hand-sanitizer and refrains from the Holy Water.
If there are more than two hundred congregants, people can also gather outside where the church set up speakers and another cross as a focal point.
Members of the church can receive communion, where church ministers bequeath the Sacrament and people receive it from an arm’s length.
At Nativity of Our Lady Church, Father Matthew Pennington said up until Advent, the church would host services outside without a cover. Members would instead bring their own umbrellas and covers.
Since then, they erected a large, white pavilion in the parking lot and placed an altar, band stand, and cross there.
Now, churchgoers can bring their own lawn chairs and enjoy services outside and remain socially distanced.
Father Pennington said the pavilion can seat about 150 people, and some even sit beyond the tent, in a space further away but where they can still hear the speakers.
“When people come to celebrate Easter with us, the first thing we’ll do is check to make sure they have a mask on. We’re going to take their temperature, we’re going to sanitize their hands, and we’re going to invite them to sit within the pavilion, in a socially distant manner,” Father Pennington explained.
When handing out Communion, the volunteers will sanitize their hands and then bequeath the Host individually. At that time, members will not take off their masks until after the volunteer has moved to another group.