This is the second time churches in Manitoba are celebrating Easter during pandemic restrictions and yet for many, it looks different than last year. 

Andaza Hezekiah is the lead pastor at Joy Fountain Church. At this point, they don't have a physical space to call their own. 

"This year we're probably just going to do an online service. We have a situation in our own context where we don't have a building, we're renovating a building, so that makes it a little different. We have no choice but to go online," says Hezekiah.

Joy Fountain will offer their congregation a service on Friday and Sunday, virtually. For roughly five years they have called Easter weekend their 'Sonrise' weekend.

"This year is a little lowkey. We have been so involved with construction."

Easter is an important time for Joy Fountain.

"I would count it as one of the most important celebrations. Easter for me means that Jesus took my place so that I can come into a relationship with God. He paid for my sins. Without His death and resurrection, we would not have access with God today," says Hezekiah.

Bruce Adams is the lead pastor at Kilcona Park Alliance Church in Winnipeg and this Easter weekend will be the first in-person service they've had since the province announced the ease of restrictions back in February of 2021. 

"This year we are opening up to in-person services, at least for a part of our congregation. We decided to have two services. One on Good Friday and one on Easter Sunday, and we've invited our people to join in one of those services," says Adams. 

Kilcona will be enjoying communion together in person and with those watching at home during the Good Friday service. 

"Last year we didn't have the live streaming capacity and it caught us off guard, so it was a very different type of format last year. We did do an event on Zoom for Good Friday. Having people present [this year] is going to be a unique opportunity."

This will be the first in-person service the church has had in many months and it will be the only one for awhile.

"We're trying to have lots of caution and we do have good participation in our live-stream."

For Kilcona Park Alliance, Christmas holds more grand traditions than Easter for the congregation. However, the act of remembering the cross still carries great importance. 

"For me, Easter is the victory of Christ over all the pain and sorrow. It's all about hope and the future. He loves me enough to be apart of his family," says Adams. 

Layton Friesen is the conference pastor of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference, which includes 65 churches across Canada. On top of preaching, Friesen supports pastors from this conference, including the main office in Steinbach.  

"It's different this year in the sense that pastors know what they're doing now. Last year we were just getting everything sorted out, as it sort of blindsided us," he says. 

Friesen shares that he sees less stress this Easter as many churches in the conference know how to run church online at this one-year marker.  

"It's not as scrambled and stressful, but it's probably more exhausting because it's just been so long. Churches have really grown exhausted by all of this," says Friesen.

The conference includes EMC's in other provinces, so the services this weekend will be different according to provincial restrictions. 

"Our church in Winnipeg, we're allowed a certain number of people, so we'll have a certain number of people in-person, a live service on top of Live streaming."

Regardless of the number of people inside the building and the cleaning protocols, Friesen is glad to see people in the flesh. 

"My encouragement to churches is always, follow the regulations, but then do what you can. If you can meet in person, then do it. It's really important that we keep on connecting."

Easter is filled with hope for the future, as Friesen sees it. 

"It's a celebration of a turning point in history, when all the powers of evil and sin and slavery had been exhausted on Jesus on the cross, and He had been buried for three days, after all that was spent, then God raised His son Jesus from the dead and declared there's a new start."