In-person Easter services return to Florida as more are vaccinated

Churches across Florida are getting ready for Easter Sunday services.

This time last year, First Baptist staff in Lake County were setting up their parking lot for services. All the parishioners were sitting in their cars. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the church to hold a drive-in Easter service at the time. More than 260 cars were there.

This year, everything will be indoors as First Baptist Church credits recent vaccine efforts. Church leaders say that people can be back in their cars but there will also be opportunities to watch from home for those who want to feel safe. In addition, there will be a masked area for those who feel more comfortable attending in person that way.

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"We're so excited to be back in person. We had worship services last night, worship this morning -- just kind of getting back to normal. We have a masked area for those who feel more comfortable with that. But we're excited to be back in person," the church staff said.

FOX 35 was at First Baptist Church as services went on.

Hundreds of people back in the pews at Leesburg’s First Baptist Church, this Easter Sunday. Jane and Larry Gallagher were among them, this year. Last year, the couple says they decided to watch the services online.

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"No, we didn't come when it was really bad. We pretty much stayed at home," Larry said. He and his wife feel much more confident to attend now that they have both been fully vaccinated. "We feel a lot safer."

Jane explained that "we like the fact that even when we go into church now, it's still social distanced, there's still space between you and the other person."

Inside the main sanctuary, people kept space among the pews and some in the crowd wore masks. They also had a separate room for those who wished to keep on their masks.

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Pastor Steve Rippy said they were happy to accommodate anyone who wanted to attend, telling FOX 35 that  "for us to be able to worship in person, that's such a beautiful thing for us, this year."

Church staff said about 1,000 people attended their two morning services at their downtown location.

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