INDIANAPOLIS — The COVID-19 pandemic forced churches across the state to close their doors to in-person services. Now, many are opening back up and they are ready to welcome people as they navigate a new normal.
New Direction Church on East 38th Street still streams their services online, and though those numbers are still soaring, church leaders said the doors of the church are back open.
"We called it our 'homecoming weekend.' We wanted everybody to come back home and celebrate because we've been apart so long," Pastor Kenneth Sullivan Jr. said.
Sullivan Jr. said he planned for months for people to come back to the sanctuary for Father's Day.
"This is our year to rebuild, 2021. We had already shot for that, I guess you could say, by faith," Sullivan Jr. said.
With the green light from Marion County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, restrictions are relaxing and the church was filled able to be filled again.
"It's been 16 months since we've been here in the building worshiping and fellow-shipping together," Sullivan Jr. said.
He said leaving the sanctuary happened suddenly, but when it comes to the comeback, he's taking it all in.
"People were crying. People were cheering. People were standing up the entire service, clapping their hands, celebrating. Because, again, having been away so long, it allowed people, I think, to have a greater appreciation," Sullivan Jr. said.
Being back in the sanctuary brings excitement, but there's still work to be done outside of worship.
"For us as a church, it was so important for us to help encourage people who had not been vaccinated to get vaccinated so that they could worship safely with other people who've been vaccinated as well," Sullivan Jr. said.
That's why Eskenazi Hospital partnered with the church to vaccinate dozens of people ready to return to worship.
Sullivan Jr. said the church will continue making virtual services a priority and the pandemic taught leaders not to limit their reach to just the walls of the church.
What other churches are doing
WRTV checked with other local churches to see how the return to normal is going.
iTown Church was one of the first congregations to begin offering in-person services in April 2020 when families signed up for 40-minute services with limited attendance allowed. They are now back to worshiping without those tight restrictions.
Christ Church Cathedral in Downtown Indianapolis still requires masks, but attendees no longer have to register for a specific service.
Traders Point Christian Church, which has multiple locations across Central Indiana, is back to normal in-person services, but it also started an online campus.