Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Easter 2021 gets 'back to normal' for area churches

The masks have come off – some have in some places – and there will be no Easter services in parking lots in Orange County this year.

But expect a big celebration outside First Baptist Church of Orange. Members there have stuffed 12,000 plastic Easter eggs with candy, reports Josh Fults, the new pastor.

"We're having our first ever Saturday evening service at 5 p.m. with an Easter egg hunt after," he said. "Sunday, we're doing the same thing for two services, at 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m."

Special children's services will be held at the same time as the adult services," Fults said.

"Last year, because of COVID, most churches didn't get to have Easter celebrations. We're excited to kind of resume some normalcy, get people together and celebrate in person."

Easter, the most sacred of the Christian holidays, went mostly without group celebrations last year, just days after the declaration of a coronavirus.

First Baptist Church of Bridge City had a drive-in Easter service in its parking lot.

But the mask mandate has been lifted in Texas and active cases have decreased. Vaccines are available to everyone who wants one.

Most area churches have been holding in-person services for months, with members slowly coming back.

"We've found the more people get vaccinated, the more are coming," said Ryan Chandler, pastor at Trinity Baptist in Orange. "Even those who choose not to get vaccinated are feeling more comfortable about coming.

"We were down about 70 percent in attendance most of the summer [of 2020]. Now, counting people who watch us live online, we're probably up to 60 percent of where we were before the pandemic."

Cowboy Church of Orange County will host an Easter Sunrise Service at 7 a.m. Sunday, outside "At The Crosses," and a 10:30 a.m. Worship Service and Childrens Church, with Cowboy gospel music live by the Cowboy Cross Band.

The church's ad says "Boots and Hats Welcome, but never required."

Masks are requested at a number of area churches, but few require them.

"We've been indoors since the end of May," said Karen Bodin, church secretary at St. Henry Catholic in Bridge City. "The only thing is social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing.

"Everything else is getting back to normal with 6-foot distance. We have less than the attendance we used to have, but a lot of our parishioners still aren't coming back.

"We have a lot of older, more vulnerable parishioners."

Palm Sunday was a big celebration last week at North Orange Baptist Church.

"A large number came and it was a special day for family and children," said the church secretary.

Like most area churches, NOBC streams its services online. Because of damages from Hurricane Laura, the in-person services are being held in the Christian Life Center, not in the Worship Center.

"We're not limiting attendance," the woman said. "There's some distancing and it's people's choice if they wear masks."

Pastor Keith Royal, who hosted the drive-in service at First Baptist Bridge City last year, said, "It's just going to be a normal Easter" with a 10:30 a.m. service. "People are really starting to come back as the vaccine has rolled out. It'll be special in that regard."

Asked about the unusual circumstance of last year, when members remained in their autos and listened to music and scripture projected out to them from the church's bus barn, Royal said, "That was weird, but it was kind of special. I'm glad we did it."

Chandler, the Trinity Baptist pastor, pointed out the pandemic had pushed the church to innovate.

"COVID is bad, but it's an opportunity. We updated technology, figured out online services," he said.

"It also challenged our people to look around and ask, 'What is church?' It's not a building but wherever people gather to worship."


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