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Source: Courtesy of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church / New Birth

For churchgoers of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest (formerly Lithonia), Georgia, “The Return” is finally here.

Led by Senior Pastor Dr. Jamal Bryant, the beloved mega-church is marking an end to its two-year-long hiatus from in-person worship—caused by the pandemic—by hosting its first worship services back in the sanctuary during Easter weekend.

The string of events welcoming back churchgoers has been dubbed “The Return,” and will take place from April 15-17.

Other names involved in the weekend’s programs include Bishop T.D. Jakes, Grammy-winning gospel artist John P. Kee and GMA Dove award-winning singer-songwriter and producer VaShawn Mitchell.

“We’ve been waiting in great anticipation, and in less than one day, ‘The Return’ will take place! We’ve missed you. We’ve interceded for you. We’ve believed with you. We’ve waited for you! Welcome home,” the caption of New Birth Instagram caption reads.

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The first event will take place on Good Friday from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with Jakes and Kee.

On Saturday, New Birth will be at The New Black Wall Street Market from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. alongside a host of Black vendors and businesses offering a variety of merchandise and resources.

The Return will culminate with a 9:30 a.m. worship service celebration on Resurrection Sunday with Pastor Bryant and Mitchell.

New Birth pivoted to virtual services during the pandemic in an effort to continue offering its parishioners a sense of like-minded community and Christian worship. 

Pastor Bryant recently shared with Fox 5 Atlanta that worship became accessible in a whole new way during the pandemic, taking “the sanctity of the stained-glass windows and [releasing] it to the street corner.”

Even still, he emphasized COVID-19’s onslaught disproportionately affected the Black community and New Birth’s church family.

Speaking on this weekend’s in-person reopening of the church, Pastor Bryant shared:

“It’s going to be the sanctified Essence Festival. Come with everything but a cooler. We are coming in for a family reunion. We’re able to hug each other again. To be able to worship to be able to see each other. It’s not just church, it’s family. It’s community.”

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