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Area churches adapt to state reopening standards

Coronavirus communion cup
A number of churches are using individual communion cups that separate the bread and the wine or grape juice. (Leah Ward/The Globe)

REGIONAL — Although the governor has relaxed closures of public spaces, houses of worship still have a number of state requirements to follow in order to meet together in person.

Churches throughout the region are using a few strategies to ensure safety for their members as they begin worshiping together again.

Scott Peterson, pastor at Solid Rock assembly, explained that even before the coronavirus pandemic, Solid Rock was streaming its services live online, so it was easy for the congregation to use that tool during the mandatory closure. It began meeting in person again May 31 with two services: a 9 a.m. assembly for members ages 60 and older, and a 10:30 a.m. meeting for the remainder of the congregation. Beginning June 28, the group eliminated the additional meeting and went back to a single Sunday service.

"We have people probably in every church on both ends of the spectrum on COVID-19," Peterson said.

With this reality in mind, he said, the church is allowing a certain degree of flexibility. Auxiliary organizations like the nursery have not reopened with staff, but the nursery room is available for parents to use if desired. Congregants may choose whether or not to wear masks.

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Families are welcome to sit together, but they are asked to social distance from other families. There is enough room in the church's sanctuary to facilitate this distance, Peterson noted.

A couple of other worship procedures are operating a little differently, he added. The congregation would normally pass plates around to administer communion and to solicit offerings from members, but social distancing makes that process impossible. Instead, offering baskets are set up in the back of the auditorium for charitable giving, and members are also able to give online.

For communion, congregants have two options: they may bring their own unleavened bread and wine/grape juice if they like, or they may use individually packaged communion servings handed out at the beginning of the service.

One aspect of worship that has not changed is singing, Peterson said. Singing is a big part of Solid Rock's meetings and a source of encouragement to members.

"I don't think people realized how much they missed gathering together," Peterson said. Since resuming in-person worship, services have felt "like a celebration with other believers," he added.

Like Solid Rock, Worthington Christian Reformed Church is leaving mask usage up to individual members. Rather than serve communion hand to hand, the church is also offering individually packaged communion emblems.

"We are doing what we think is kind of expected," said church council vice president Steve Prins.

To limit social contact, Prins explained, congregants are asked to sit only in every other pew. Singing is limited to only a hymn at the beginning and end of the service, with select verses. When the meeting ends, members are dismissed row by row and are asked to go straight outside rather than enjoying fellowship in the building.

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After the service, the whole building is re-sanitized to reduce the spread of disease.

Related Topics: FAITH
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