COLORADO SPRINGS — For many faith leaders in southern Colorado, Easter weekend is going to be unlike any other. Usually a time anticipating full pews, and visitors coming through its doors- COVID-19 is changing how people worship.
"I always would have been upset thinking it was going to snow on Easter, but it doesn't really matter this year," said Kent Ingram, Senior Minister at First United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs.
Snow in the forecast may have lend itself to cancellations in years past, but with the Governor's stay at home order still in effect- many religious institutions are practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings such as their church services.
The biggest change this year- most churches are holding services online, in their cars, or not at all.
"Celebrating with my congregation, holy week and Easter is one of the highlights of my year every year," said Father Jeremiah Williamson, at Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, "there's a number of things I'm really missing."
Church leaders say it's been hard not being around their community, but they're concerned about the well-being of their members and visitors. In many cases the churches have enjoyed the challenges it's brought on.
Discovery Church Colorado says they're creative team is especially enjoying the process of finding unique ways to connect with church goers.
"Their tanks are getting filled during this season," Pete Heiniger, Executive Pastor at Discovery Church Colorado.
With empty buildings, pews, and parking lots- there's concern over how churches will fair financially during what's typically a generous season.
Heiniger says they're concerned, but they've been surprised that the amount of money people are donating right now is staying about the same.
"We expected a signficant impact on our finances and we just didn't see that as rapidly as we thought we would." said Heiniger.
For Ingram, Senior Minister at the oldest church in Colorado Springs- Easter weekend is an institution. He says one of their biggest priorities right now is making sure all of their staff is taken care of during challenging times.
"We've done our best to continue paying our hourly folks because missing a paycheck would be catastrophic for them," said Ingram.
Churches have also over the last few years adapted to changing habits of people, offering online or text donation options. Lately, it's become the main way churches are receiving donations to keep the religious centers up and running.
"We also recognized a vast majority of our congregation folks are middle class or working class, and many of them are on fixed incomes," said Williamson, "we're also setting aside ways to help folks in the congregation."
During the pandemic, many have sought out local churches for hope and understanding. Some local churches say they've had a significant increase in the number of viewers tuning into live streams.