Churches across Mississippi are looking for ways to reopen their doors for in-person services safely. MPB’s Kobee Vance talks with pastors about how and when they may reopen
Many churches around the state have held remote or outdoor services for nearly two months to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Now, some congregations want to return for in-person services. Jim Nielsen with Hope Church in Tupelo says services will resume this Sunday, but it will not be business as usual. Nielsen says “There will be no handouts, no bulletins, no childcare, no Sunday-school. The front entrance doors will be blocked open. People may enter with masks or without, their choosing. Our staff and people at the door will have masks.”
Pastor Carlous Smith of New Zion Baptist in Braxton says his church already reopened this past Sunday using existing guidance from the CDC and State Health Department. “It’s difficult because we hug, we shake hands and that is not available right now," says Smith. "We’re gonna air on the side of caution. It certainly does seem 'un-churchy' to us, but we wanna make sure we do everything we can to make sure that everyone is safe.”
African Americans in Mississippi are contracting and dying from the Coronavirus at a disproportionate rate. At New Horizons Church in Jackson, Pastor Ronnie Crudup considered the added risk when postponing services until next month. “The time that we set put into consideration the health disparities that exist within our community," says Crudup. "And so we also understand that we are one of those congregations that others imitate, and so we’re very very concerned about what we do and how that impacts others and what they think should or should not be done in the community.”
Governor Reeves has provided guidance for churches that plan to reopen using the latest State Health Department and CDC data.