After 30 years of preaching, the Rev. Howard-John Wesley confessed to his congregation in December that he needed a break.“I feel so distant from God,” the fourth-generation Baptist preacher admitted in a sermon that was shared widely across social media.Wesley, 47, has led the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., for the past 11 years. On Jan. 1, he started a sabbatical during which he was planning to tackle some goals, including setting up better routines for sleep and exercise and seeing mentors and old friends.Easter was supposed to be his first day back.But in March, as the novel coronavirus began to spread across the United States, Wesley began dialing into meetings, helping to make decisions on closing public worship, sending the staff home and adjusting to online services.Wesley will make a return to the pulpit Sunday, but not in front of his 4,500 members. On Wednesday, he taped his Easter message in front of a camera and empty pews. Gone were the “amens” that frequently echo through the church.“It’s nice to see people excited to see you,” he said in an interview. “The coronavirus has robbed from all of us that ‘Let me hug you, I’m so

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