The Very Rev. Martin Diaz prepares to offer communion to those attending Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Pastors say initial sanitation and social distancing plans have to be regularly revised.
SALT LAKE CITY — The Rev. Leroy Davis wants his church to feel as safe as Costco. The service will hopefully be a little more personal, he said, but the environment should seem just as clean.
To accomplish this goal, the Rev. Davis and his deacons at Hopeful Baptist Church in Montpelier, Virginia, spent hours over the past month discussing how to sanitize the sanctuary and manage crowds before resuming in-person services last Sunday.
They purchased individually packaged communion elements, propped open doors, removed hymn books and Bibles from the pews and put X’s on the ground in the parking lot reminding people to spread out.
“We followed both jot and tittle of the governor’s requirements for reopening,” the Rev. Davis, who serves as Hopeful Baptist’s pastor, said.
All the prep paid off. The church upheld new social distancing rules while hosting around 70 worshippers last weekend, and leaders are now talking about how to increase capacity in the weeks ahead.
“There were two surprises (last Sunday.) One was the number of people who came and the second was that there weren’t any other surprises,” the Rev. Davis said.
Despite early successes, he and other leaders of recently reopened churches have no plans to get complacent. They said they’ll regularly revise their new worship guidelines to keep people safe and encouraged other churches resuming services to do the same.
“After each service, ushers and (church) leaders stand 6 feet apart to discuss what we noticed, what we think we should do differently and everything else,” said the Rev. Martin Diaz, rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, which resumed daily services on May 11.
President Donald Trump appears to trust religious leaders’ commitment to safety. On Friday, he urged governors to allow churches across the country to reopen this weekend.
“The ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe as they gather and pray,” he said.
Good intentions don’t always guarantee good results. At least two houses of worship — one in Texas and one in Georgia — have had to reclose after several congregation members tested positive for COVID-19.
Through vigilance, leaders of other churches hope to keep a potential outbreak at bay.
“We’re encouraging (social distancing) by word of mouth and showing a video on it also,” said the Rev. Robby Foster, senior pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia, which reopened last Sunday. “So far, people have done everything we’ve asked them to do.”
Reopening involves a lot of stressful and exhausting work, but religious leaders said they’re thrilled to be doing it. It feels good to see people in pews …read more
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