• 63°

Houses of worship can re-open to in-person services May 20

By MARK MAYNARD

Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Houses of worship will be able to have in-person services, with a reduced capacity, starting on May 20, Gov. Andy Beshear said at his daily briefing.

That date is a Wednesday and Beshear said that was intentional to allow for a gradual reopening.

“We’ve already been talking with faith leaders and working with them to see a gradual schedule where we could go from the one experience to some of the other pieces that typically happen, like Sunday School for instance,” he said.

Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Todd Gray was pleased with the announcement and thanked Gov. Beshear for communicating with the faith-based communities.

“Having a target day of May 20 will give churches and their leaders the time they need to prepare for members and guests to re-enter the building,” he said. “I am thankful Governor Beshear recognizes the need to communicate the essential nature of our houses of worship by setting a target day for resuming limited occupancy of in-person services.”

The pastors of 2,370 churches and the more than 700,000 members of Kentucky Baptist churches have been anxious to assemble since the middle of March when the governor recommended no more mass gatherings of any kind because the coronavirus was spreading so rapidly.

“Kentucky Baptist pastors and church members will be encouraged to hear of loosened restraints on in-person gatherings,” Gray said.

Churches have utilized and sharpened online technology skills to provide services over the internet – something most plan on continue to do – and some have used drive-in services where no one leaves their cars in the parking lot and listens to the pastor through radio or other transmitters. Despite those creative ways to worship, they have missed seeing each other.

“Kentucky Baptist pastors have been amazingly respectful of the Governor’s request to halt in-person worship services as we fight the spread of COVID-19,” Gray said. “If churches are able to have Sunday morning and Wednesday night worship services at 30 to 40 percent of seating capacity, that will be a step in the right direction. While we have not heard specifics regarding the percentage of seating capacity our Governor will recommend, we are thankful that the conversation has begun about in-person worship services.”

Beshear said capacity will likely be determined by a percentage of the occupancy that is allowed. That determination will be made later.

“All of this is contingent on being able to keep social distancing and on the type of cleaning that needs to occur,” he said. “I would not be suggesting these if I did not think we could be doing them safely,” but, if case numbers begin to climb again, “it’s always subject to pause … everything up here is fluid, depending on the coronavirus. We cannot allow ourselves to have that second spike.”

Gray said Kentucky Baptist pastors and church leadership has time to begin preparations. If everything goes well, and there’s no spike of the coronavirus, Sunday morning services could resume on May 24.

“Pastors and their leadership will want to think through how to conduct services practicing safe social distancing, eliminating the meet and greet time and passing of offering plates, sanitizing the facility among other matters,” he said. “If churches are able to have Sunday morning and Wednesday night worship services at 30 to 40 percent of seating capacity that will be a step in the right direction.”