LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Hutchinson lifted the state’s mask mandate just days before the biggest church event of the year, Easter.

We spoke with several denominations to see how they’re handling this change in policy. Some are taking a hard line, saying they will still mandate mask-wearing. Others are leaving that decision up to their parishioners.

Preparations are underway for First NLR’s Easter Eggstravaganza. Before COVID, it was one of their biggest events of the year.

First NLR typically has about 5,000 to 7,000 people show up on Easter.

But this go-around, the Eggstravaganza will be a drive-through model.

“We still have a sense that it’s not yet time for large groups to come together in small spaces,” said Pastor Rod Loy.

Loy says as a church, they never mandated mask-wearing.

“But everyone wore masks,” Loy said. “It wasn’t a rule. It was, we love and care for each other.”

He expects his parishioners to continue to wear masks.

For Catholics in Little Rock, you won’t have much of a choice.

The Catholic Diocese of Little Rock released this statement about mask wearing:

“Even though mask-wearing requirements have been loosened by public authorities in other settings, gatherings for Catholic worship have their own dynamics and so mask-wearing will continue to be obligatory for everyone at least until May 12, when we will reassess this requirement in the light of the situation then current.  Masks can be removed by lectors when reading and priests at the altar but it is preferred that masks stay on even then.”

And Methodists?

“You still need to wear masks for all in-person events at United Methodist churches,” said Bishop

Gary Mueller of the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Mueller says they’ll do this until scientific data clearly shows that masks are no longer needed.

“We need to hold steady just a little longer because people’s well-being is far more important that our individual comfort,” Mueller said.

Church leaders are eager to celebrate the resurrection, but not at the sacrifice of the health and safety of their flock.

We did reach out to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention to see how they’re handling the end to the mask mandate. They released the following statement on Friday:

“Arkansas Baptist Churches have pushed forward in incredible and innovative ways amidst a global pandemic. Each local autonomous Arkansas Baptist Church decides what safety measures they will implement and how to best care for the safety of their congregants. With news of the mask mandate ending, many churches will evaluate the best option for the congregation and move forward. We’ve continued to encourage churches to care for one another, minister to others and operate as safely as possible.”

Arkansas Baptist State Convention