HONOLULU (KHON2) — After two years of Easter Sunday services being online or a hybrid of virtual and in-person, many churches are getting ready to welcome back members and with that, a sense of normalcy.

Pastor Brian Belting with the Kailua United Methodist Church said if the pandemic has taught them anything is resiliency.

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“There’s been ups, downs, we thought we were doing Christmas, we didn’t do Christmas, we thought it was going to be over in a month,” Belting said. “And so they’ve participated online many of our kupuna have even learned how to do it.”

The omicron variant did away with the church’s Christmas service and only helped virtual sermons.

But things are looking better this spring. Easter Sunday will be the church’s first religious holiday where more people are encouraged to attend in person. Face masks are now optional, it is a small change that makes a big difference for Pastor Belting.

“I am looking at people throughout my whole sermon and so to see facial expressions, is really a big deal and really gives me excitement as I share the scriptures or the stories that I have,” Belting said. “And just makes me feel like they are connecting and I am connecting with them.”

Many churches adapted and held services online, some like New Hope Oahu expanded their reach to thousands of people.

Senior Pastor John Tilton said, “Our online campus grew from about 4,000 on a weekend, to a consistent 15,000 to 16,000 online. And that is been consistent for the past two years. So what we’re seeing people now being more comfortable to come in person.”

Pastor Tilton said Easter’s service will be a celebratory one.

Meanwhile, Pastor Belting said he is looking forward to seeing familiar faces again at the church. But he knows their online presence is here to stay, he said people have often found them through their virtual services.

Belting said, “just today, two families that visited us came and they said to me after church today, ‘you know it’s so good to be with you in person, we’ve been participating online and just felt like it seemed it might be right, and it really was.'”

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Easter service at Kailua United Methodist Church begins at 9:30 a.m., New Hope Oahu will hold Easter Sunday service at 7 a.m., 9:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.