MARICOPA — More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the closure of churches, worshipers have been returning to Maricopa area churches.

At Maricopa Community Church, which often hosts gospel concerts and other events, attendance numbers are beginning to rise.

“We have had a steady return, especially as new case numbers dropped and more of us got vaccinated. In-person attendance has been back to about three-fourths of pre-COVID numbers for the past two months,” said MCC Senior Pastor Steve Adamson.

In the early days of the pandemic, like other churches, MCC closed its doors, shifting for a while to all virtual services.

“We went exclusively to online-only worship services for one month while gathering facts about the many unknowns during those first days of the new virus,” Adamson said. “Then we opened up in April 2019 to in-person worship again at both our 8 and 10:30 a.m. worship services with Sunday school in between.”

But throughout the year, with COVID-19 cases increasing, many worshipers preferred to stay home.

“The pandemic prompted us to upgrade our online broadcasting capability as the Lord provided us with the required funds and a new member who is an excellent information and internet technician,” Adamson said.

The church also worked to stay in touch with its many worshipers who could not attend in-person services.

“We carefully visited many of our members outside their screen doors with social distancing at first, but more and more have invited us into their homes and — thanks be to God — we have had no spreading events at church or through home visitation,” Adamson said.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, 15 people from the church contracted COVID-19 at non-church events such as home and work, he said.

“But all were able to avoid coming to church while testing positive without passing it on to anyone else in the congregation. Just two members have been hospitalized in all that time, and everyone has recovered,” Adamson said.

With COVID numbers declining and vaccination rates increasing, he said he’s noticed a shift in attendance in the past few months, with familiar and new faces returning to in-person services.

The Maricopa Community Church Easter service was larger than usual and a new choir director has joined the staff.

The church, which often brings in visiting performers for gospel concerts, has begun planning a new schedule of concerts to begin in the fall.

Scheduled to perform gospel concerts at the church are:

  • The Walkers, Oct. 10 at the 8 and 10:30 a.m. services
  • Evidence, on Oct. 17 at 8 and 10:30 a.m.
  • The Mark Dubbeld Family on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.
  • Wilburn and Wilburn on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.

“More concerts are planned in December and on into 2022, and of course, everyone is welcome,” Adamson said.

At Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, while most Masses now allow parishioners to worship without a mask or social distancing, the church has reserved one Mass, Saturday at 4 p.m., in which COVID-safe protocols are followed.

Those attending the Saturday 4 p.m. Mass are asked to sign up in advance and are required to wear a mask in the church.

The Masses on Friday, Sunday and weekdays are observed with no COVID protocols and all pews open. Signup is not required.

“As we move forward, let us not forget those whose lives were lost, those who were gravely impacted by the coronavirus, or the vulnerable who walk with us still,” a message on the Our Lady of Grace website says.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.