As state mandates concerning crowd size lessen, churches in Eclectic are welcoming their congregations to worship services.
Agape Assembly of God senior pastor Joe Creamer said the weeks of hosting church solely online has given churchgoers a deeper sense of wanting to attend services at church.
“People are getting a deeper sense of respect for the house of the Lord,” he said. “There is a longing to be with like-minded people and so there is just that excitement.”
He said several people in the congregation have welcomed the chance to be back with their church family.
“There is an excitement just to worship together,” he said. “That’s what scripture wants us to do.”
The church welcome back its members three Sundays ago and have put in social distancing protocols.
“We are in a Phase 1 reopening,” Creamer said. “We already had three services of church in person.”
He said while the campus was closed church staff performed a deep cleaning and reorganized the furniture.
“We did carpet cleaning and pews front to back,” he said. “Then we spread our pews out. All of our church seating is spread 6 feet front to back and side to side.”
Creamer said social distancing and a different schedule will be the mode of operation at the church in to the foreseeable future.
He said the church currently offers an in-person Sunday family worship service, Sunday school classes and Wednesday classes delivered via Zoom.
“Our facilities are set up so we can do Sunday school classes and meet guidelines,” he said. “We are not doing nursery or children’s church. All of our ministries are still working, but they are just virtual.”
He said for those members who have compromised immune systems or prefer not to be in a crowd, the church streams the Sunday services and other learning opportunities such as bible studies.
First Baptist Church of Eclectic is following a similar path to reopening.
Pastor Britt Green said the church is currently holding a Sunday service and Wednesday prayer time for now.
“We also made space available for our Sunday school classes,” he said. “We told the classes that if they are comfortable and want to come to the church they can schedule a time to meet in the fellowship hall.”
He said the fellowship hall and other rooms are large enough to host a socially-distanced class. “We are telling them we do not care if they come right before church during a standard Sunday school time or stay after church or meet on Tuesday night,” he said.
Green said the main concern is the safety of the church’s members.
“We marked off two rows between each occupied row,” he said. “Then we’ve marked off every foot on the occupiable rows so everyone knows how far to sit from other families.”
Green said the church has communicated with members it is OK to participate in church from home.
“Some of our members want to come back to church right now,” he said. “Others do not. We tell everyone to do what they feel comfortable doing. If you have a compromised immune system, you are not sinning by missing church. You need to protect yourself during this time and that’s a good thing.”
Green estimated about half of the church’s membership attended church.
“On average, we have around 115 members attend,” he said. “This past Sunday we had 62 members attend.”
As for the church’s plans moving forward, Green, like Creamer, said the church is taking it day by day.
“We’re just going to keep this model for now and see how the numbers go in our general area,” he said. “If the numbers go back up, I don’t know if we will be back online only. Obviously if the government shuts down again we will. Short of that I don’t know.”