With coronavirus vaccines continuing to be administered and local health restrictions beginning to lift, Tri-Valley residents will be able to celebrate Easter with their congregation in-person this weekend.
Many Christian denominations will provide members with the opportunity to attend services indoors during this Holy Week, with church leaders maintaining health provisions in order to keep attendees safe and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"We are eager and happy to welcome back our parishioners and their guests to celebrate Easter. While we cannot yet do everything we might otherwise do to celebrate Easter, we are very happy things have opened to the point we can welcome people back into the church," Fr. Mark Wiesner, a pastor for the Catholic Community of Pleasanton, told the Weekly.
"We also understand some people are not yet comfortable being out in public, so we are happy to webcast our services for them to pray with us virtually," he added.
Easter this Sunday will mark one of the first major Christian holidays of 2021 where residents will be able to attend a service inside.
Places of worship are allowed to open at 50% of their maximum capacity for in-person services in Alameda County, which as of Tuesday has entered the orange tier according to the state's COVID-19 reopening blueprint.
Per Alameda County guidelines, attendees are mandated to wear masks and maintain social distancing between pods.
CCOP will be facilitating in-person mass throughout Holy Week -- which starts with Holy Thursday and will conclude on Easter Sunday -- and according to staff will have close to 1,000 people in attendance at its two locations on Easter.
Mass will be held at the community's two locations on Sunday, at St. Augustine Catholic Church at three different times between 8 a.m. and noon and at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church at 9 a.m. -- indoor attendance will be limited to 200 people at both locations. The community will also hold a special outdoor mass at St. Augustine Church Grotto at 10 a.m. on Sunday, which is open to 150 residents and will be streamed on the community's Facebook and YouTube channels.
Many are excited at the prospect of returning for Easter services in-person, which Tyler Scott, lead pastor at the Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, says will offer many new congregates their first opportunity to visit the church's physical location.
"Our entire team is overflowing with joy and anticipation for Easter weekend, and thankful we can be together again with our community," Scott told the Weekly. "During the shutdown, we cultivated a huge online audience, many of which have never even been to our campus in-person. Since we reopened our doors in February, it's been exciting to see these new faces in person and get to know them."
Contra Costa County, which remained in the COVID-19 red tier as of Wednesday, allows places of worship to operate indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Residents can register online to attend mass at one of the CPC's two venues for Easter services, which will be held Saturday evening in the Sanctuary and Sunday morning in the Sanctuary or Tent. In the Sanctuary, attendees can hear live music with Worship Pastor Shane Lepisi and a stream of Scott's sermon on big screens inside, while in the Tent, Scott is teaching live and music will be streamed.
Many churches need residents to register prior to attending service, such as Blue Oaks Church in Pleasanton, which is offering both online and in-person services this Easter.
According to Executive Pastor of Blue Oaks Church Joe Hartley, Blue Oaks has two in-person services on Sunday morning, the latter of which has programming for kids from newborn to fifth grade. Attendance is limited to 100 people.
With one of the highest counts in the Tri-Valley, Fountain Church in Pleasanton is offering four services on Sunday -- each of which offers child care -- with county-mandated health and safety policies in place.
"Easter is a wonderful time to celebrate God's overwhelming love for us. Easter is one of the biggest celebrations at Fountain Church," Fountain Church staff said on their website. "Easter is more than a holiday for us, but the beautiful reality of what God can do and wants to do in our lives -- give us new life!"