ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) -- Churches across Rochester of all denominations celebrated Easter in person Sunday.
After not being able to do so last year, church goers and pastors alike were glad to share the holiday together.
"The biggest thing I tell everybody is 'God loves you.' I know that's such a cliché, but you got to understand that God loves you," said Fred Shirley, lead pastor at Mercy Hill Church on the northwest side of town.
"He's with us through every difficulty," agrees Nathan Brand, Berean Community Church lead pastor.
The Easter message was especially important to people this year.
"Some of us have lost hope," Brand said. "We have lost hope just the like the disciples lost hope when Jesus died. They thought 'This is the end.'"
Yet Christians have found that hope through Jesus, the reason for celebrating Easter.
"That death, burial and resurrection. That's where you find hope," Shirley said. "That's where you find peace. That's where you find strength and the willingness to keep going forward."
Last year, finding hope and strength was hard when Easter church services were virtual. Pastors are glad to see people return in person.
"That's what it's all about," Shirley said. "You notice that when Jesus had dinner with his disciples, they weren't in separate households. They all came together."
"It's excellent," Brand agrees. "Last year, nobody was in here. Snow."
Last Easter's snow was followed by a surge in COVID cases in the state.
One Mercy Hill church member remembers all too well.
"I got COVID," remembers Lyle Odegaard. "My wife was in the hospital for a while but I guess I was never really scared of COVID."
So how did he stay so calm during the storm?
"I guess my hope is in Jesus. My hope is not in the world," Odegaard said. "Trump or Biden is not going to save me. Is that too direct?"
And after the church service, Odegaard prepares to head home to join his family for more Easter fun with the message still fresh in his mind.
"My job is to live for the Lord in the midst of all this," Odegaard concludes.
For those who were not able to attend Mercy Hill or Berean Community Church in person, both offered virtual services including through social media platforms, a cable access channel and YouTube.