Easter churchgoers grateful for in-person services after 2020's lockdown moved celebrations online

Easter celebrations started early in churches across New Zealand on Sunday to mark the beginning of new life in the Christian calendar.

After last year's lockdowns moved services online, many were grateful to gather in person again, opening their doors to people of all faiths. 

"This year to be able to gather, to be together and to celebrate as a faith community, means a lot more to us having been together but apart this time last year," says The Very Reverend Anne Mills, dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland.

Last year, the nationwide lockdown set in just before Easter. Rev Mills had to learn overnight how YouTube worked in order to livestream her services. 

But for her, the message of the day, from either a plasma screen or a pulpit, remains the same.

"The Christians believe that in Jesus' rising from the dead that we are offered new life, new hope and the promise that we are never alone."

That promise of togetherness rang true on Sunday. In the first pew, a group of Muslim women joined in worship. 

"We remember at this time with our Jewish friends as they celebrate Passover and with our Muslim brothers and sisters as they begin Ramadan," Rev Mills says.

Two years on from the Christchurch terror attack and a year on from a lockdown that kept so many of us in our bubbles.

Anmar Taufeek and the women from the Good Deed charity group are reminded there's more that brings us together than sets us apart. 

"Because we all believe in one God and follow one God and that's why it's really lovely to be here and celebrate," Taufeek says.

After the two years New Zealand and the rest of the world has had, they were happy to share a message of hope and new beginnings together.