Detroit churches give Easter messages of hope amid pandemic


A year ago, an order from Governor Gretchen Whitmer kept people in their homes and made Easter services virtual as the pandemic worsened.

As COVID-19 restrictions have eased across the state, allowing personal worship services, cases of the virus are picking up again, reaching levels not seen since the fall.

However, in some churches in Detroit the message was being heard of how much hope had been gained since Resurrection Sunday last year.

During the outdoor service at Christ Church, 960 E. Jefferson Ave, sun-heated members stand facing the Detroit River, which offers a cool breeze. Birds chirped while Rev. Emily Williams gave Guffey a brief message about God paving a way through hard times.

“We went through hard things before this year, we went through hard things before this year … and just as God found a way through the Red Sea, God will find a way through the pandemic,” Guffey said on Sunday.

Rector Emily Williams Guffey (left) speaks with Lauren Leney, John Leney and their daughter Erin Leney, 22, from across Troy before the Easter Sunday service at Christ Church in Detroit on April 4, 2021.

Along with Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday was the first outdoor service at Christ Church since last autumn.

Jacqueline Gjonaj, 25, of Warren, said Easter was her favorite holiday and she was upset last year when she couldn’t celebrate it in church. “This year my mother saw that it was an outdoor service and we said we had to go. It’s just a wonderful thing,” said Gjonaj.

Jacqueline Gjonaj, 25, of Warren, takes a lily home to take home after the Easter Sunday service at Christ Church in Detroit on April 4, 2021.

The church held three short services and attendance was limited to 35 people each. The main service was also streamed online.

Although the service was small, people still had to wear masks and online COVID-19 screening was required for all guests. Despite the precautionary measures, churchgoers were grateful to have a sense of normalcy for the vacation.

“I felt constipated during the service because it was such a harsh winter,” said Kathryn Lincoln, 65, of Royal Oak.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron, right, sprinkles holy water on Easter Sunday April 4, 2021 at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

Cars lined the street in front of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 9844 Woodward Ave. for Easter Mass just a few miles away.

Every other row had three to four people or a family sat together. “X” marks on the floor led people to social distancing and masks were required.

Communion was given to each individual, and the parishioners quickly ate theirs while making sure to keep their masks on.

“With the people getting the vaccinations and everything … and because I got myself vaccinated, I felt a little more comfortable and then our church is only open to a few, not many,” said Stacia English, 57, from Clinton Township.

The congregation steps forward to take communion during Mass on Easter Sunday on April 4, 2021 at Detroit's Blessed Sacrament Cathedral.

The mass service was also streamed live, but the general exemption from the requirement to attend the Mass on Sundays and Holidays expired on March 13, despite the recent surge in virus cases.

“I think we especially need this gift of peace and renewed hope these days that the pandemic continues to challenge,” said Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron on Sunday.

More than 70 parishes in the diocese had worshiped and gathered mainly from afar during the pandemic.


Dusty Kennedy