Churches closely monitoring data as COVID-19 cases continue to increase

Churches closely monitoring data as COVID-19 cases continue to increase
Mt. Helm Baptist in Jackson is still only doing virtual services and the latest surge will likely push back any in-person worship till sometime in 2021. (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As the upward trend of cases continue, so do questions about risks surrounding in-person worship.

Churches are all being forced to keep a close eye on the data each week. Some are amending their in-person schedules as the cases increase. While others have been erring on the side of caution from the start.

Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson still hasn’t returned to in-person worship. “Let’s just hold still for the time being,” said Mt. Helm Baptist pastor Rev. CJ Rhodes.

Rhodes says their smaller building presents limitations on distancing and they have some added challenges.

“Most of the people who would be our ushers and deacons and people who serve the congregation on Sunday mornings are 65 and older,” noted Rhodes. “Some of them said we ain’t coming back until a number of folks have taken the vaccine. So we’re talking spring or summer.”

He says the latest spike will likely push back any previous plans to return.

“I put out a survey to the membership about reentry possibility,” he said. “Most of the members who replied said they would like to come back in person before the end of the year but not yet.”

At Broadmeadow United Methodist in Jackson, they’ve had periods since March where they were virtual only. But are currently doing both virtual and in-person.

“In a sanctuary built for around 300 people we are right now worshiping in person about 15,” explained Rev. Lance Presley.

Although the large majority of the congregation is watching from home, they aren’t taking chances.

“We believe that it’s our responsibility as a church, as a faith community to make sure that we are not spreaders of this,” added Presley.

Masks are required in the church. There’s no choir, no passing of the offering plate and Bibles and hymnals are removed to limit contact of shared surfaces.

“I am relieved that I am not receiving kind of push back on that and that our folks are being very diligent,” said Presley.

First Baptist Jackson sent the following statement.

“COVID has had an impact on many First Baptist Jackson families in various ways,” said Michael Bowen, Minister of Media and Communications. “We are blessed to have many in our congregation that are in the medical and science field that have offered their expertise to help make our worship services and activities as safe as possible. Thanks to their generosity, we have assembled together a medical advisory team to provide counsel to the leadership of the church as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, and we pray for all of those in our church family and in the community that are struggling with this virus.”

St. Richard Catholic Church tells us that when they resumed Masses in June after the shutdown, they made a list of guidelines to attend.

All of those guidelines are still in place. Those include, not allowing more than 150 people into the church that has full capacity upwards of 300, requiring masks and social distancing.

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