Church-goers able to 'reconnect with each other' this Easter, cathedral dean says
With the lifting of restrictions under the orange traffic light setting, there will be no limit on the number of people who can attend Easter Services at churches across the motu.
Livestreaming services has become standard practice over the last two years, as churches around the country adapted to life in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic.
While the livestreams will not be stopping anytime soon, people can now attend church services in greater numbers - right ahead of one of the most significant events in the Christian calendar.
In Nelson, Christ Church Cathedral Dean Graham O'Brien said while they had been able to maintain services in person - under restrictions - the move to orange will mean a different kind of Easter celebration.
"The main thing for us will be being able to celebrate and have time after the service where we can share a cup of tea and a hot cross bun, and chat more freely.
"Rather than just coming to church and going people can now spend time together and kind of reconnect with each other."
He said the move to orange was fortunately timed - with the joy of fewer restrictions adding another dimension to the sense of new life at Easter.
"This is the centrepoint of the Christian faith. We celebrate Christmas but Easter is really the centrepoint where we celebrate all that Jesus did for us on the cross and we look forward to the hope that the empty tomb gives us - that, that Jesus died but he rose again."
O'Brien said while the change was exciting, there were still many who were wary and cautious with the virus circulating in the community.
He is unsure if the cathedral will see large crowds at its Easter services, but hopes the changes will encourage some people to attend.
"We're very much aware that Covid is still in the community and so I think it's wise that we keep our mask on at this point of time. It's great having more people but I think we still need to be safe and be sensible and I think right now being weekend number one, keeping a mask on would be the best way to keep each other safe."
In Wellington, Elim International Church pastor Boyd Ratnaraja said being able to come together to celebrate Easter was like an early Christmas present.
"We believe in community and doing life together so now we're absolutely stoked we are able to have Easter services, we've got one on Good Friday and then two on Easter Sunday."
At the red setting they would have been limited to 200 people, but now, can open the doors to 500 worshippers.
He said while it was fantastic to be able to welcome people back without gathering limits, there would still be measures in place to limit the spread of the virus.
"We'll be following all the Covid regulations in terms of making sure that we're still following all those protocols - wiping all the surfaces and social distancing ... keeping people safe is our highest priority."
In Auckland, St Patrick's Cathedral said it was looking forward to welcoming people in unrestricted numbers to its Holy week services.
All those who serve in the cathedral will be wearing masks and those attending services were strongly encouraged to do so.