SASKATOON -- "This is our holy day, and we really want to be united."

That sentiment from Father Stefano Penna at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in Saskatoon is shared by many in the religious community, as Easter approaches under the cloud of the pandemic with churches unable to hold traditional services due  to COVID-19 restrictions.

“This is the sadness — we believe in a God who came down, not just to give us ideas and principles, but to love us by touching us, and we meet that in community,” said Penna.

“To not be able to gather and to have that touch, this not being able to receive the body and blood of Jesus is really, really painful for many, many people.”

“It just doesn’t feel the same,” said Kristen Raney, who usually attends church with her husband Michael and her two children. 

“For my family it’s a tradition to go to Holy Thursday and Good Friday and the Easter Vigil, and it’s just not the same without it.”

Like many houses of worship, St. Paul’s has taken to the internet during the pandemic; streaming their services to deliver messages of comfort for those who need it.

“I really miss the people, and it’s really hard preaching to a camera,” said Reverend Daryl Woods with Grace-Westminster United Church in Saskatoon, also streaming its services online.

Woods feels Easter could be a blessing for people navigating through difficult times.

We need this more than anything right now,” he said. “We do believe that there will be a resurrection, and following this pandemic, life will go on. There will be a time when we can get back together, so I think it gives us the opportunity to enter into Holy Week in a way that we never have before.”

Penna hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic will teach people how important it is to be around other people.

“We take for granted connecting, touching, being with other people,” he said. “Now we know how important that is, and I hope that that is something we will work on cultivating.”