We are gathered here today ...
Churches search for balance as they reopen
June 4, 2020
In mid March, churches were forced to close their doors due to the coronavirus epidemic. Two months later, services were allowed to be held again with restrictions still in place.
In March, when the coronavirus was growing rapidly in case numbers, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services made a statement that places of worship were not going to be able to meet with more than 10 people.
Many churches like Full Gospel Church in Ewing, decided to offer a live-streamed service instead. This way, churchgoers still had a chance to practice their faith. Pastor Mark Hoffman has continued with the live-stream services even though churches can now hold in-person services.
“We continue to live stream the message for those who do not feel comfortable meeting yet,” Hoffman said. “The people who are coming at this time to church are the ones who feel comfortable being out.”
Other churches, like Concordia Lutheran Church in Clearwater, continued to hold different 10-person communion services throughout each week. While meeting, they followed social distancing rules in order to keep the congregation safe.
“While we were able to meet in small, 10-person shortened services, much of our congregation became increasingly frustrated that we could not meet for our regular Sunday morning divine service,” Rev. Daniel Feusse said. “It became increasingly clear that for our spiritual well-being, we needed to resume our Sunday service as soon as reasonably possible.”
Since the reopening of the churches, church leaders have taken different precautions to ensure that the church goers are safe and are adhering to new rules put in place by DHHS. Feusse said that pews have been marked to create the right amount of space needed for distancing. The church also decided to no longer pass an offering plate, and instead, place a basket at the opening of the sanctuary for offerings.
Hoffman sent a letter to Full Gospel’s church body, informing them of changes. Church officials ask that if someone does not feel well, don’t attend. Hoffman said there will be no greeters shaking hands before the service and churchgoers needed to bring their own Bibles because the church is not providing them at this time.
Since the reopen, both churches have slowly increased in attendance. Hoffman said that the church still has a large online viewership to go along with their numbers.
Feusse and Hoffman said that reopening churches was important for spiritual support and the well-being of their congregations. Feusse said the stress of not being able to go to church was straining for many of the congregation.
“Many of our parishioners related how spiritually distraught and mentally depressed they were becoming,” Feusse said. “This is a real health issue that is being vastly under-reported in our public media.”