Area churches consider re-opening, with variety of approaches for this Sunday
May 1, 2020
Across the state, church boards and pastors are discussing whether and/or how to reopen their church buildings now that – as of today, May 1 – state restrictions on indoor church gatherings have been eased.
State-issued rules say that churches that choose to re-open their buildings for in-person meetings and worship can do so, provided they leave every other row or pew open and adhere to CDC-recommended social distancing and sanitation protocols, along with the recommended guidelines from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
The rules, “Open Up and Recover Safely: A Three-phase Approach to Open Oklahoma's Economy,” were published April 22.
Phase 2, expected to begin May 15, eases things further. Weddings and funerals can resume, as can non-essential travel. Children's nursery areas in churches can re-open. Visits to senior care facilities and hospitals will still be prohibited in Phase 2.
Phase 3, with a tentative goal of launching on June 1, is still being worked out, but more comprehensive guidance will be forthcoming. However, some items have been determined. Church camps can open in Phase 3, for example, but visiting senior care facilities and hospitals will still be prohibited.
Regardless, the state's guidance emphasizes that vulnerable people and those over age 65 should continue following safer-at-home guidelines.
The Review-Courier polled local churches on what they plan to do. Not all churches responded, but many did.
Holding Church at Church This Sunday
Cedar Grove Wesleyan Church – “We will be having our service back inside the building” this Sunday, said Pastor Nathan Hosier. “Our Sunday School will continue to be online for now. None of our other activities have resumed for now.”
College Hill Church of Christ – "College Hill plans to meet on Sunday for class and worship -- both sessions in the auditorium to give us plenty of room," said preacher W. Jay Tyree. "No lunch or afternoon session and no Wednesday night class at the building for the first couple of weeks."
Hopeton Church – Pastor Marion Hadsell said, “Hopeton Church will have a 'soft opening' this Sunday, May 3, at 10 a.m. We will continue to practice social distancing with every other pew being marked off. There will be no nursery or children’s church for the month of May. We encourage anyone who is still uncomfortable getting out to stay home, but would love to see anyone who would like to be there! The church is still the church and we are excited to move forward.”
Town and Country Christian Church – Sunday services will be in the church at 10 a.m. this Sunday, May 3, said Pastor Neal Gordon. “We will be practicing distancing recommendations. There will be no Sunday school or youth groups at this time,” he said. “We will continue to livestream at the Town and Country Christian Church Facebook page.
Waiting To Reopen
Alva Church of God – “We're planning on waiting a couple of weeks and see how it goes,” Rev. Nathan Braudrick said. “Our board and several members are a little worried there may be a boost in cases when things open, so we're gonna wait and see. My tentative plan is for May 31, but that's not set in stone.
Alva Friends Church – “We are not opening our building yet,” said Rev. Darin Kearns, “but we are still being the church and reaching more people than ever. We should have been livestreaming our worship time a long time ago. But sometimes you need to go through things to help you learn.”
Alva Wesleyan Church – Church will continue to be held outside this Sunday, said assistant pastor Louis Garcia. “We are just playing things week by week,” he said.
Bible Baptist Church – “I am still formulating our plans,” said Pastor John Clapp. “We are continuing the drive-in church at Alva's Market, 10:30 a.m., for the next two weeks.”
Church of the Nazarene – Pastor Brady Marston said this: “We haven't begun planning yet. We won't be back in the sanctuary this Sunday and that's really all I know at this point.”
First Baptist Church – “We have decided not to reopen after May 1st,” said Student Minister Derrick Thomas. “So we will continue our livestream service until further notice. We have not set a date to reopen.”
First Christian Church – Rev. Drew Kirtley said, “First Christian Church will continue to worship via Facebook Live from the Alva First Christian Church page for at least three more Sundays, at which point the board will meet to discuss further plans in terms of reopening.”
First Presbyterian Church – The First Presbyterian Session, or church board, is working out a date when they can hold an online meeting to discuss when and how to reopen. Information will be provided once a decision has been made.
Grace & Faith Fellowship – Pastor Max Ridgway had this to say: “Keeping the health and safety of our congregation as our first priority, and in accordance with the Oklahoma Department of Health 'Open Up and Recover Safely' guidelines, Grace and Faith Fellowship will resume public services on May 17. According to the guidelines, we are not supposed to allow nursery services until Phase 2, which goes into effect on May 15. We feel that resuming adult services while prohibiting nursery services would place an undue burden on families with small children.”
Zion Lutheran Church – The Elders of Zion Lutheran will meet May 6 to determine the church's actions regarding reopening. Church services are being livestreamed on Facebook each Sunday at 10:30 a.m.