Churches reopen on Sunday as COVID-19 restrictions ease

It was back to church on Sunday for many Kiwis who have been eagerly waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to ease.

But while 100 people can now gather to pray, not everyone is keen to open the chapel doors just yet.

Today, people filed into Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral for the first time in nine weeks. Sunday services at churches across the country were able to resume and now they're helping preach the Government's creed.

At churches like Sacred Heart in Ponsonby there was no holy water but plenty of hand sanitiser.

They are also adopting other health measures including contact tracing and physical distancing in the pews.

They're steps religious leaders are more than willing to make so they can go to Mass.  

"For us as Catholics this is a very central part of our life," says Ponsonby Herne Bay parish priest Father Rory Morrissey.

This morning's parishioners relieved to be back. Mass would usually draw a crowd of about 250 so the parish added extra services to help manage the numbers.

The cap on gatherings is still a sticking point for many bigger churches who are opting to keep their doors shut for now, instead continuing online services so people can watch at home.

"We are together but that togetherness doesn't mean that we have to be in the same building in the same place," says pastor Jonathan Dove.

Greenlane Christian Centre has set up a livestream studio with four days' notice and will continue until all 500 members can come together again.

"We need to wait until level 1 to get over than 100 cap that we have right now," Dove says.

Father Morrissey is also keen to hear the Prime Minister's next alert level announcement.

"It would be good if the news was that we were going to level 1," he says.

Until then he'll have to spread his own good news - to a much smaller crowd.