Heart Worship band rehearsing for its first in-person service since the pandemic

This will be the second time since the pandemic that Nottingham churches won’t be able to celebrate Easter the way they normally would.

Usually, Heart Church in the city centre would welcome more than 800 visitors each Sunday before the pandemic.

But since the first UK lockdown was enforced on 23 March 2020, the local Pentecostal megachurch has moved online.

Heart Church celebrated Easter Sunday online last year

Gideon Akpovi who is the Heart Worship band leader explained that “it’s been very new for the team”.

“But the team has done very well and everyone’s just tried to adapt, everyone’s just tried to pitch in where we can.”

In the beginning, Heart Church turned to pre-recordings which would be edited throughout the week and then streamed on their YouTube Channel on Sundays, but slowly transitioned to livestreams once lockdown rules were eased:

Audio: Gideon Akpovi speaks about the transition from pre-recordings to livestreams

Video: Snippet of Heart Worship rehearsing for its first in-person service on Easter Sunday

Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s public address on 23 June 2020 allowing places of worship to reopen for in-person service from 4 July 2020, it has taken Heart Church more than a year to welcome back its congregation on site.

“Easter Sunday is the perfect day to open up our building…because it’s such a day of hope”
Leah Copsey, Heart Church media manager

Leah Copsey who is the Media Manager at Heart Church said: “Doing church online has been a massive opportunity to reach people who might never come to church and reach different parts of the country and different parts of the world.”

“It’s been challenging as well because you can’t gage the connection that you’re having with people.”

“Because the people aren’t there in the room, it’s difficult to know whether what you’re teaching is really hitting home with people”

Finally, Easter Sunday seems the “perfect day to open up our building…because it’s such a day of hope.”

Video: Leah Copsey explains the COVID measures put in place for first in-person service

According to the latest government guidelines, sizes of congregation depend on the space available in the building and religious authorities must adhere to social distancing measures.

COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship

Key Principles:
  • Further lowering capacity – even if it is possible to seat a larger numbers of people inside a venue safely, it may not be safe for them all to travel to and from, or enter and exit, the venue.
  • Staggering entry times with other local venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas.
  • Establishing pre-booking arrangements so that, at particularly busy times, no more than can be safely accommodated arrive at the venue.
  • Arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues. Advising visitors to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.

Source: GOV.UK

Unlike Heart Church, Grace Church Nottingham has been hosting in-person services for a while now.

Since December last year, the Pentecostal megachurch has been offering both in-person and online services. Every Sunday, the church welcomes up to 100 people to its premises.

Grace Church Nottingham has been hosting in-person services since December 2020

Gus Bonnington who is the Evangelism Pastor at Grace Church Nottingham said: “It’s been great to see people again. It’s been great to see that people are still coming to church.”

However, following the success of Grace Church Nottingham’s online services, it has decided to commemorate this year’s Good Friday online only at 8pm on their YouTube Channel.

Video: Gus Bonnington welcomes the idea celebrating Good Friday online this year

With lockdown rules slowly easing, churches can only hope they will be able to host services at full capacity again in the coming months.

But for now, the two Nottingham megachurches are excited to be celebrating the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ this weekend.