SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The iconic Grace Cathedral near downtown San Francisco did what it could to adjust to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sunday morning, it opened its doors for the first time in 14 months for an in person mass.
"There's a huge smile under both of our masks," said David Exiques as he walked into the cathedral to attend mass.
For more than a year, an online stream was the only way to connect and worship with other members of the church. Despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing churches to hold limited indoor service, the Diocese of California still opted to stay remote.
Bishop Mark Andrus says he's grateful technology kept people together but nothing compares to a traditional in-person service.
"There's something deeply human and deeply creative about being in person with each other," he said.
According to Bishop Andrus, 77 congregations within the Diocese opened doors Sunday morning. At the Grace Cathedral, long time members of the church were emotional while they waited in line.
"I've missed it," said Katherine Stevens. She's attended Sunday service for 39 years.
"I think I'm going to cry when I get in."
Masks are required in the cathedral, even when you are seated. Despite the ability to fit nearly 2,000 people inside, only 200 will be allowed in to practice social distancing.
"We don't know where the variants are going to take us," said Bishop Andrus. "We don't know what human behavior is going to do, so it's better to keep each other safe."
People attending the mass say their faith is stronger than ever.
"It's very emotional," said Exiques. "It's time for all of us to do these things."
The church will increase its capacity when the state fully reopens on June 15th.
In order to attend a Sunday service, you must first make a reservation online.