CLEVELAND — It has been more than a year since many Northeast Ohio churches have met for in-person services. With the second Lenten season of the pandemic ending and Easter less than three weeks away, some religious leaders are looking at how to make ends meet with the big religious holiday ahead.
"There are two things throughout this whole year that I've been able to count on. One, God's grace and goodness. And two, the generosity and goodness of our members," said Father Bob Stec at St. Ambrose in Brunswick.
On Friday nights, the traditional Lenten fish fry is busy at the church. Because of social distancing, the parish hall is full of volunteers instead of families around tables.
Because of COVID-19, people place their orders then wait. Although this is a yearly tradition, it is also a way for the church to put some money in the bank. Despite the changes, Stec said the turnout is good.
"And the response has been just phenomenal," he said.
The fish fry is a sense of normalcy for parishioners who have been meeting for socially-distanced services since the fall.
Even though churches are meeting, and collection plates are going through the pews, the diocese told News 5 overall collections have been down the past year.
Across town in Shaker Heights, Plymouth Church UCC leaders said making ends meet is a top priority.
"Our parishioners really have stepped up in a variety of ways," said James P. Riggs. "I think it's always in the back of our minds, and I think in particular and today churches are always thinking about that."
Services at the church have been virtual since last March.
"We are hopeful that come the warmer weather, that we are going to move back out onto the lawn," Riggs said.
This church has an endowment that helped buoy them and provide services for the community through the pandemic.
"But if we've learned anything through this pandemic, it is you can't look too far ahead because everything's changing at a pretty high rate of speed," Riggs said.
At another church in Cleveland, leaders had to pivot fast when the pandemic started.
"So last year it has been, it has been a total recreation for the whole entire church, just the way we go about doing things," said. Rev. David Cobb, Jr. the leader of the Emmanuel Baptist Chruch.
The 105-year-old church is getting ready to welcome people back for Easter. Cobb said donations have been down.
"So even though we're not at the level that we normally would be, I think that it has still allowed us not to be so far that we had to make drastic changes," he said.
During the "recreation" of the chruch, Cobb sent snail mail to parishioners.
"But we also did the Postal Service, sending it out so that people can put their offerings in an envelope and mail it back to the church," he said. "That allowed my older members to be a part of it."
Cobbs said he hopes once the congregants return the financial situation will turn around too.