By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Brian Kearns packed his children, Marykate, 9, Bridget, 8, and Brady, 4, into a surrey cart and off they went down the Promenade on Sunday.
Kearns took the wheel and provided the pedal power while his kids sat back and enjoyed the leisurely ride along Sea Isle City’s oceanfront walkway.
“The kids have had cabin fever for a while,” Kearns said. “But going to the parks, being at the shore and getting out on the beach is fantastic.”
Kearns and his family were staying at the Sea Isle home of his wife’s 93-year-old grandmother, Rita Brady, for an Easter weekend getaway at the shore.
For the Kearns family and many others, this time last year wasn’t the best of Easter celebrations because of the pandemic-related shutdown on travel, businesses and gatherings.
But with the emergence of the COVID-19 vaccine and the loosening of pandemic restrictions, families were able to enjoy this Easter Sunday by doing some of the traditional things that were prohibited during the early months of the coronavirus crisis in 2020 – such as walking on the beach, going to dinner or attending church.
“It is mentally and physically relaxing,” Louise Pollock, a holiday visitor to Sea Isle, said of being able to get outdoors at the shore.
“And there is a sense of …” Pollock added while searching for the right word to finish her thought.
“A sense of normalcy,” said Pollock’s daughter-in-law, Denise Pollock.
“Yes, that’s the word. Normalcy,” Louise Pollock said.
Besides her daughter-in-law, Denise, Louise Pollock was joined by her daughter, Debra Cannon. Denise’s daughter, Ashlee, 13, and Debra’s daughter, Sarah, 9, were also part of the outing on the Promenade.
The Pollock and Cannon families were visiting Sea Isle from their homes in Philadelphia and Bucks County, Pa. They have a vacation place in Dennis Township.
Louise joked that the women had ditched their husbands so they could have some holiday time to themselves in Sea Isle.
“This is a girls’ day celebration for Easter,” she said as everyone laughed.
Out on the beach, John and Mary Miner and their daughters, Madison, 24, and Tess, 16, were having some Easter fun with the family’s golden retriever, Millie.
John Miner, who lives in Newtown Square, Pa., and has a summer home in Sea Isle, noted that it was a treat to simply spend the holiday at the shore during the pandemic.
“We’re just glad to be here walking on the beach and watching the dog go into the ocean,” he said.
On Friday, the state increased the pandemic limit on outdoor gatherings to 200 people, although the indoor limit remains at 25. There are no limits on the number of people who can gather outdoors for religious or political activities, funerals, memorial services and weddings.
Indoor gatherings for religious services and celebrations, including wedding ceremonies, funerals and memorial services that involve a religious service, are limited to 50 percent of a room’s capacity, according to state regulations.
In Sea Isle, the Easter worshippers at United Methodist Church began their celebration of one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar with sunrise services on the Promenade. They gathered inside the church at 10 a.m. to continue to reflect on the miracle of Christ’s resurrection.
Traditionally, Sea Isle is a popular retreat for Christians during Easter weekend. Many of them stop in to celebrate the holiday at United Methodist Church and St. Joseph Catholic Church while spending time at their shore vacation homes.
During Easter 2020, churches remained closed in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. Pastor Melissa Doyle-Waid of United Methodist Church welcomed worshippers back Sunday for the traditional in-person Easter services.
“I want to praise God because I see people here that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s nice to see your face,” Doyle-Waid said.
As Easter services began at United Methodist Church, a bare, wooden cross stood at the foot of the altar. Doyle-Waid noted that the starkness of the cross represented the “pain and death” suffered by Christ during his crucifixion.
But soon after, Doyle-Waid invited the parishioners to decorate the cross with white, pink, yellow, purple and orange roses, slowing transforming it into a beautiful object symbolizing Christ’s resurrection.
“Good morning. Happy Easter. The Lord is risen,” Doyle-Waid said while standing underneath a tall, stained-glass mural depicting Christ.
The parishioners responded by saying, “The Lord is risen indeed.”