BY JANAE JOACHIM
Both local churches and churches around the nation have been forced to close due to COVID-19. By governors banning large gatherings, it has become impossible for churches to hold services as usual. Church staff members are left to live stream their services, and big churches are unsure of when they will be able to return to a sense of normalcy.
Since gatherings were banned due to health risks, church members have been watching the sermon and worship online surrounded only by the people in their house. The services are still the same, but without the fellowship that gathering together brings, members are struggling.
To cope with this, small groups have started to have Zoom meetings to get a sense of the fellowship that being together gives. They discuss parts of the Bible together and chat about how they have been doing with everything. Through Zoom and FaceTime, church staff and members are finding new ways to reach out and practice their religion together.
“On Mondays, I have six Zoom meetings followed by four to five more on Tuesdays,” said Rich Davies, staff member at Grace Church. “On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I go to the church to film with the band and get essential work done.”
As the state and country starts to reopen, churches are thinking about what reopening will look like for them. Since large gatherings still present health risks, a complete reopening would be unsafe for churches to practice right away. Instead, some say they plan on sticking with what they have been doing for the past couple of months during the lock-down until the middle of June.
When June 14 rolls around, more churches around the area are going to be open again. However, things will not be the same as how they were before the pandemic shut everything down. Families will be sitting six feet apart in sanctuaries and high contact areas will be sanitized in between services. Entering and exiting the building is also going to look different, and churches are figuring out a safe plan for that.
Events like VBS and summer conferences have already been canceled, so a lot of volunteers and attendees of those events will feel like they are missing out. However, volunteers will be needed more than ever at the regular services to account for those who cannot be there. Maintaining social distancing and sanitization in a large church is going to take the cooperation of everyone involved; meaning great members, staff, and volunteers.
“The mission and heart behind everything we do as a church will remain the same,” said Jasmine Boyer, staff member at Northside Christian Church. “We want to continue doing life as a church family, connecting and growing together in our faith and reaching out to people as we can given the situation.”
Some people will still not feel comfortable attending in-person services even with the precautions that churches are taking, so live streams will continue to be offered.