PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The COVID-19 pandemic hindered Easter services around the globe in 2020 and 2021.

Whether they were virtual services, limited capacity, or no service at all, it was vastly different than years past.

Many are relieved to have the sense of community back.

“It felt great to be in there today,” churchgoer James McEachin said. “Being able to actually not feel awkward to be close to people, being able to shake people’s hands just kinda brings you back to that normalcy.”

With COVID-19 numbers way down, and mask requirements and social distancing a thing of the past, Easter Sunday once again was a time of joy.

“It’s great to return to some sense of normalcy,” First Baptist Church of Panama City Business Administrator Derek McDavid said. “2020 and 2021 were COVID numbers and it’s nice to see a return and have an uplifting spirit. It’s really encouraging to see our congregation back together for the first time in a few years. It’s just really great to have the body of Christ back together.”

McDavid said the Easter Sunday service at First Baptist Church of Panama City saw the highest turnout in six years.

While the church doesn’t yet have the final turnout number, McDavid estimates over 2,000 people attended a service Sunday.

“The emotion is just uplifting today to again just be with the body of Christ and see so many people that may not have been here for many years and see them return to that,” McDavid said.

While a few still opted to wear a mask, McDavid said service seemed, for the most part, normal again.

“The safety of our members, especially our elderly community is still top of mind but at the same time we’ve got a lot of people who just seem to be back to a sense of normalcy and return to pre-COVID days and that’s really encouraging to see,” McDavid said.

Mcdavid also said he is happy to see many of the church’s ministries, such as the food pantry, back in full force again.