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Churches prepare to welcome the faithful with social distancing, safety measures

The doors of many Pike County churches will open on Sunday, more than a month after they were closed by public health order. Some churches will continue to hold in-parking lot services, while others will remain closed.

The Rev. Chris Boutin of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church said it will be a joyous day in returning to public worship amid the opening of essential services.

“Communication with God is an essential,” Boutin said. “People feed their bodies and should also feed their souls.”

Boutin said St. Martin is opening with the social guidelines of the Archdiocese of Mobile that include social distancing, disinfecting and preparations for an overflow congregation. Communion is a central part of each Mass, although he will now wear a mask per Archdiocese guidelines.

“Communion is important and it is important that we can do that as we begin to return to a sense of normalcy, whatever that is,” he said.

The Rev, Ashley Faulk, pastor of Mount Olive Assembly of God, said the Holy Bible says that we should not neglect to assemble ourselves. With that directive, Faulk will open Mount Olive on Sunday morning.

“We need the fellowship of our brethren,” he said.

Faulk said opening Mount Olive is important also because there are church members who do not have access to live streaming services and want to be back in church.

“Some of our younger members have volunteered to stay home to make sure there is room for our senior adults,” he said.

The service will open with prayer, congregational singing but without a choir. God’s Word will then be delivered.  Families will sit together and at every other pew and social distancing will be practiced.”

Pastor Louis Johnson said he is so happy for The Vine to open that he might preach three hours. And, The Vine membership is equally excited and have said they will take what they can get, three hours included.

Johnson said God is not in the coronavirus but is using it to shake the world and reset the church to fulfill His Word and His Promise. A trial run for tribulation, Johnson said.

The Vine will hold one service instead of two and will not hold children’s activities. There will be no coffee service on Sunday and all recommendations for the safety of church members will be observed.

Jonathan Hornsby, student pastor at Southside Baptist Church in Troy said, as long as appropriate precautions are taken, he believes it is important to get back to worshipping together with the people that are considered family. Southside will have two morning services but no Sunday School or night services.  The nine o’clock service will be for senior adults and those at high risk. The 11 a.m. service will be for all others.

Seating will be roped off to accommodate social distancing and families will be asked to sit together.  There will be no fellowship time and the offering plate will not be passed.

Pastor Charles Collier of New Hope Independent Holy Church of God in Brundidge said he does not understand the rush to go back into the church at this unprecedented time.

“We will continue to hold our services with the members sitting in their cars in the parking lot probably until the first week in June,” Collier said. “At this time, some of our members don’t really feel safe going back inside.”

Collier said the response to the outdoor services has been very good. “The Sunday service will be at 10 a.m. and will be held from the front porch of the church,” he said. “We’ll have a devotion and prayer and I will bring the word.”

The Rev. Ed Shirley, pastor of Brundidge United Methodist Church, is among the local ministers who have made the decision not to open on Sunday.  “I want to go over the recommended guidelines for opening our church with our trustees and ushers and for our membership to be fully informed before we open once again,” he said. “I want this to be a church decision.”

Shirley said his decision not to open also was based on waiting longer to see the trends in the COVID-19 statistics as to whether they are leveling or decreasing. “I would rather not open too soon,” he said. “Delaying will give us more time to watch the number of reported cases and make a decision from there.”

  Bush Baptist Church in Troy will continue to live stream their service Sunday with the hopes of welcoming everybody back  May 24. “We wanted to have time to make sure we had time to communicate, so people knew what was going on,” said the Rev. Dustin Coleman, pastor. 

Coleman expects that even when the church reopens, some people will continue to watch the livestream services. “I always thought when got together we would be all excited and jumping around,” Coleman said. “It would be good for sure, but it will also be sad because there will still be some that can’t be with us.”

Bush will implement safety procedures in order to keep everybody safe. 

“I have pastor friends all over the country and we have been talking about this for a while,” Coleman said. “We figured out plans with each other. Pastor Marlon (Brown) and I sat down and he had some more insights.”