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Mississippi faith leaders prepare for COVID safe Easter weekend services

"We're just excited that this is an Easter where we can actually have people back in the church," said Pastor Bartholomew Orr.

SOUTHAVEN, Miss — Easter Sunday is usually a time for faith organizations to gather to honor the occasion. But how are places of worship gathering this weekend during a pandemic?

From the music to the preaching, this Easter will be in-person for those who registered at Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven.  

"We're just excited that this is an Easter where we can actually have people back in the church," said Pastor Bartholomew Orr. "Last Easter I was preaching all by myself in here." 

Orr said his church is encouraging congregation members to get vaccinated and practice COVID-19 safety precautions.  

The Mississippi State Department of Health recommends those 65 and up or those 16 and older with high-risk medical conditions be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before attending indoor services.  

"Encouraging people to maintain social distancing," said Orr. "We've been training our staff, from hand sanitizing stations, we'll be wearing masks." 

Hundreds will look forward to worshipping inside this weekend for Easter. At Brown Missionary services are capped at a third. That’s 750 people.  

"Easter is always a special time as we celebrate this season and celebrate Christ and his resurrection," said the pastor. "It is a time Christians come together and express their faith in a very public and celebratory way. We love to get together." 

Services are looking different for those in the Jewish faith too.  

Beth Israel Congregation, a synagogue in Jackson, Mississippi, held a virtual Passover service.  

“We did kind of a modified liturgy, highlighting some of our favorite parts," said Rabbi Joseph Rosen. "Having the chance to sing and tell the story together and include some of our religious school children in the telling of the story.” 

Mississippi health leaders are asking members to attend virtual or outdoor services. But if you attend in-person, take a mask and keep 6 feet between your family and others. 

CDC offers the following general considerations to help communities of faith discern how best to practice their beliefs while keeping their staff and congregations safe. Millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life. For many faith traditions, gathering together for worship is at the heart of what it means to be a community of faith.