The Easter and Passover holidays were accompanied Sunday by more relaxed restrictions on houses of worship and gatherings in New England, along with worries about the spread of COVID-19.
Many houses of worship required congregants to RSVP for a limited number of in-person service seats. Others held outdoor ceremonies. And, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, many had online services through Zoom, Facebook or YouTube.
Bishop Thomas Brown of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine said the Easter holiday felt different from last year. People now have a better understanding of the pandemic and they see light at the end of the tunnel as more people get vaccinated.
"We are feeling the truth of raising new life. Last year at this time, it felt like a huge blanket of grief,'' Brown told the Portland Press Herald.
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Rabbi Andrew Vogel of Temple Sinai in Brookline, Massachusetts, said there's a confluence of hope surrounding the Jewish Passover, which ends Sunday evening, and the Christian celebration of Easter, also Sunday.
Passover and Easter "are still full of hope. Especially now that we're turning the corner,'' he told the Boston Globe.
To ensure everyone's safety, outdoor services were a huge hit at churches across the region this Easter Sunday, including at Grace Episcopal Church in Norwood, Massachusetts. The church offered services outside in the parking lot at 10 a.m. -- and it was also streamed live on Facebook.
It was the first time parishioners had been face to face in about a year.
"Actually being able to spend some time with friends and family and everyone in our congregation was really nice," Peter Loescher said.
"This was wonderful, I had so much fun and I think it's really sweet that we were able to come together and still have a lot of the Easter ceremonies that make Easter Sunday so great," Catriona Morris said.
Of course, the Norwood church asked members to remain socially distanced and required parishioners not attend if they had any COVID symptoms.
But Easter Sunday with a dose of sunshine was something parishioners said was a beautiful way to enjoy mass. And with their faith tested time and again over the last 12 months, many say this Easter Sunday marks a new beginning and hope for brighter days ahead.
"This was hopeful, to see so many people willing to come back," said Rev. Matthew Conley, of St. Mary of the Nativity in Scituate. "A lot of people have been able to get vaccinated so they feel like they can go back out into public. It really warms the heart to know that we're alive and we're here."
"Just a beautiful way to enjoy the mass, to be outside on a great sunny day like this, it's perfect," one parishioner said.
There was some seating inside St. Mary's, but there were also speakers set up outside for people who felt more comfortable celebraitng in the open air.
"It's been kind of a long haul, watching online has been great also, but actually being here and participating, and being able to receive the Eucharist is really important," said Debbie Shurdut.
Several churches around Boston also held indoor services, including the Cathedral of the Holy Church. Trinity Church planned a Festival Worship, which was streamed live, and they also offered flowering of the cross in person during two different times.
Another church in West Boylston, Next Level Church, held an in-person service on Easter Sunday for the first time in months. The pastor says with the vaccine, he decided to resume in-person services. Parishioners were required to wear masks and remain six feet apart.