Some area churches return to in-person services

Some area churches return to in-person services
Rhonda Edgerton

Pastor Art Carr of Smithville Brethren Church said he was encouraged to see his church “regather” on Sunday, June 21.


Churches in Wayne County have been waiting since March to return to in-person worship, and to varying degrees they are now moving back to traditional worship services.

Pastor Duane Detweiler said Fairlawn Mennonite Church in Apple Creek returned to in-person services on May 24. “Obviously, everything is very different for us now,” he said.

Social distancing and hand sanitizer are now fixtures, and shows of affection are discouraged, according to Detweiler. “We made wearing masks an option, but not many people wanted to,” he said. “We do certainly respect it if anyone wants to.”

Detweiler said the church expanded from one service to three in order to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. “We take reservations for who’s going to attend so we can plan,” he said.

Detweiler said people all seem to be in “different places” with regard to the virus. For this reason he said he has preached unity and respect for each other. “We have stuck mostly to our regular Bible series,” he said, “but I have also tried to emphasize joy and hope in the midst of suffering.”

At St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Wooster, Father Steve Moran said his members returned in late May to a church that was very much reduced from its usual fullness.

“We’ve been having probably around 30% of our usual numbers,” Moran said. “With social distancing we can only fill in every third pew. Families can sit together, and if individuals come in, they have to sit at opposite ends of a pew.”

Pastor Art Carr of Smithville Brethren Church said he was encouraged to see his church “regather” on Sunday, June 21. “It’s been a tough several weeks, and we’re looking forward to being together, even if it’s in different ways than we’re used to,” he said.

Carr said although in-person services are cautiously moving forward, he wants members to know anyone who feels vulnerable should continue to worship from home through any variety of the social media and electronic services the church has set up.

“We want everyone to feel safe and comfortable,” he said.

As far as Sunday worship at the church, the congregation will see evidence of the church’s efforts to stay safe.

Pews are roped off for social distancing every third row. Worshipers are encouraged to wear masks, which they bring from home or that are available at the door. A donation box replaces the traditional passing of an offering plate, and members are asked to sanitize their hands upon arrival. Community hymnals and Bibles have been put away for the time being with a disposable paper worship sheet in their place. Food and coffee are no longer offered.

“We’re all sort of walking through this together, and we need to move forward,” Carr said.

While the church usually offered two Sunday services — one traditional and one contemporary — three services will be held for the foreseeable future in order to space things out.

“We’re polling our membership for what will work best for everyone as we continue down this path,” Carr said.

At Dalton Baptist Church, services were never interrupted by the virus, according to Pastor Dave Greegor. “We checked the governor’s website, and we were listed as an essential service, so that’s the approach we took,” he said.

Services continued on Sundays with Sunday school and an evening service in addition to the traditional morning service and a service on Wednesday evening. In addition, services are shared on Zoom and YouTube.

The church is practicing social distancing and promoting the use of hand sanitizer, as well as frequently sanitizing everywhere, according to Greegor. “It’s all really just common sense,” he said.

“We’ve been saying it’s a faith walk,” Pastor Rickey Brown, Sr. of Second Baptist Church in Wooster said. “We are now looking at an opening date of July 5 and couldn’t be more excited to return to worshipping together.”

When parishioners come back, they will look at many changes put in place to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Brown said his church had assembled a committee to guide the congregation through changes made necessary by the virus.

“We relied a lot on the governor’s guidelines, but we also came up with some of our own,” Brown said.

Primary among the guidelines was social distancing. Brown said because of the congregation being smaller than some of the other churches in town, they felt it would still be safe to have just one service on Sunday.

”We’ll be social distancing between families and following all the safety protocols according to the CDC as far as taking temperatures at the door, providing hand sanitizer at the door and throughout the sanctuary, and sanitizing everything thoroughly before and after every service and meeting,” Brown said.

Church volunteers will wipe down all the pews, mics, instruments, light switches, door knobs and handles, and tables and bathrooms, according to Brown.

“Our aim is to keep us all safe,” Brown said. “We will also be observing these measures when fellowshipping with other churches; they’ll know our requirements.”

One of the biggest measures to be taken will include parishioners must wear a mask. “We just all have to accept that masks will be part of our Sunday’s best outfits for a while,” Brown said.

At Wooster's Trinity United Church of Christ, Rev. Kevan Franklin said the church is taking things slowly. “We are still at stage one in our guidelines, which is stay at home,” he said.

Franklin said two weeks of declining cases are required before in-person services can begin to resume, according to church guidelines. “We haven’t even had this yet,” he said.

Franklin said once cases do begin a sustained pattern of decline, the church will gradually expand attendance. “We will first start with just 10 people allowed. Then after four weeks of declining cases, we will be able to expand to 25, and at eight weeks we can expand to 50,” he said.

Franklin said if someone were to test positive, everything would have to be shut down and start all over again.

In the meantime the church might consider some very small, socially distanced outdoor gatherings. “I’m concerned that we are such creatures of habit you can't keep people apart forever,” he said.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load