CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Many churches in our area will host Easter events Sunday after a few difficult years of canceled, scaled back or virtual services.

Some are expecting bigger crowds for 2022. Many churches in the Charleston area are giving people the chance to participate in the way that makes them feel the most comfortable.

“The last few Sundays our attendance has been up considerably. More young families. So I think everybody is ready to come back and enjoy celebrating Easter together,” said Bill Myers at First Presbyterian Church in Charleston.

It will be a busy weekend for his church and many others.

While the churches have been back open for a while, it’ll be the first mostly normal Easter since the pandemic started. Church leaders are hoping people will start getting back into the habit of attending services.

“I would say we’ll know better in about six months or maybe a year,” Myers said. “We are seeing quite a few people come back. Our numbers are strong so we are not anticipating a major hit. But I am aware across the country that they are anticipating a third of church members not coming back.”

Even though many restrictions have been lifted across the country several churches in our area are still taking precautions and letting people decide for themselves what is the safest option.

“We have hand sanitizer everywhere,” said Reverend Ray Stonestreet at Morris Memorial United Methodist Church. “We do encourage people that if they have underlying conditions then they should wear a mask and also if they are feeling ill then they should stay home.” Morris Memorial also has an area specifically for social distancing.

Bible Center Church will continue offering something similar.

“We have the luxury of having individual chairs in the auditorium that we can move around. So it is not pews stuck in one spot. We’ve put more space in the rows. We’ve even separated out into smaller groups,” said John King at Bible Center.

He said their overall numbers are up significantly because their services are available to watch from home. But in-person attendance is at about 60 to 70% of their pre-COVID numbers.