Under a blue sky and surrounded by the sing-song calls of sparrows, Pastor Steve Hay’s voice broke through on the lawn of Asbury United Methodist Church in downtown Harrisonburg.

“Christ is risen,” he said.

“The Lord is risen indeed,” came the response, in unison, from the worshipers sitting on lawn chairs in front of him.

Sunday was Easter, the holiest day of the Christian calendar and, for the first time since a drive-thru Christmas Eve service, Hay was able to see worshipers in front of him.

His smile told the story.

“Resurrection day,” he said after mingling with churchgoers around 12:15 p.m. “Resurrect worship.”

There was no in-person Easter service a year ago, when the country was coming to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, under a blue sky with the rumble of cars and trucks on Main Street behind him, Hay was able to bless bread and wine, turning it into the Body of Christ, according to the Christian faith, with his churchgoers.

“It was a joy,” he said. “Very grateful for this opportunity. A lot of people put a lot of work into making this happen. I’m happy.”

And as the service drew to a close, Hay put his hands in the air.

“Christ is risen,” Hay said, from a makeshift altar.

“He is risen indeed. Alleluia,” came the response from the lawn.

— Jim Sacco

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