Bible with N95 Mask
Many churches have gone exclusively digital during the coronavirus pandemic, but some are leaving their doors open.

Churches around the country are finding out the hard way that reopening for physical services may not be a great idea right now. Particularly in states where Covid-19 case counts are still growing steadily, in-person gatherings run a high risk of spreading the disease. A church in Georgia provides a tragic example. Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle had only recently reopened its doors (after initially moving to an online-only model) when church leaders at Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle announced they would be shutting the doors again because more members of the congregation had fallen ill.

The church will now be closing "for the foreseeable future." Church officials clearly realized it simply wasn't safe after a number of families who attended worship services tested positive for coronavirus. They had even introduced social distancing measures in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading – to no avail. 

Grand Opening, Grand Closing

Legally speaking, the church was within its right to open its doors. In late April, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp allowed businesses to re-open after a scant few weeks of shutdown. Everything from hair salons to bowling alleys was allowed to open, despite a model from the University of Washington showing it wouldn’t be safe for Georgia to re-open until late June.

Only about 25% of the regular congregation attended the late April and early May Sunday services at Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle. The other 75% stayed home and watched online. The church isn’t saying how many congregants contracted coronavirus, but released a statement saying that “Our hearts are heavy as some of our families are dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 virus, and we ask for your prayers for each of them as they follow the prescribed protocol and recuperate at home.”

Although the church instituted measures to keep congregants safe, a look at their April 26th service shows individuals standing close together without masks.

Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle is hardly the first church to experience coronavirus-related tragedy due to prematurely re-opening, however. A Houston church recently saw three priests test positive for coronavirus after re-opening in early May, and the CDC recently reported that one-third of individuals who attended church events at an Arkansas church in March contracted COVID-19, with three fatalities. Another 26 cases were reported from those who interacted with church attendees, but didn't attend the event themselves.

Religious Leaders Fed Up

The news of the sick congregants was the last straw for Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, a nationally-renowned Protestant minister, civil rights activist, and board member of the NAACP. He made his thoughts on the matter known quite clearly:

“Could it be that these pastors have some kind of power fetish—a need to see how many people will listen to them?”, he continued. “Or is the real issue the offerings, and they are putting money above people?”

Barber's followers agreed. One commenter made the observation that “the church is not a building” – it's much greater than walls and a roof. 

Hear That Second Wave A-Comin'?

Amid ongoing quarantine measures, debates have sprung up all over the country about whether churches should be allowed to hold in-person services. The argument centers around two key questions: 1) should the government be allowed to outlaw people from gathering in public, and 2) to what degree does religious worship constitute an "essential service." 

Those pushing for reopening – despite the clear dangers – received a massive boost on Friday when President Trump announced the CDC would be designating churches as "essential" and called upon governors in all 50 states to allow them to reopen their doors.

“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united” the president said. He also vowed to “override” any governors who disobeyed the order.

What do you think? Is it time for churches to open their doors, or does that risk throwing gasoline on the wildfire that is Covid-19?

13 comments

  1. William Waugh's Avatar William Waugh

    Observe closely the track of the virus the next 28 days. My opinion is it is too early, but the eager beavers will have their way. To them a second spike is irrelevent. More important to smile on the way to the bank with the money bag.

  1. Carol A siebert's Avatar Carol A siebert

    Why can't they have a out side services where people can distance themselves easier during the summer anyway until this thing passes by some.

    1. Woodrow's Avatar Woodrow

      It's in Georgia. The temperature is in the 90's.

  1. Carol A siebert's Avatar Carol A siebert

    Why can't they have a out side services where people can distance themselves easier during the summer anyway until this thing passes by some.

  1. William Cureton Fox's Avatar William Cureton Fox

    The first time hasn't left.

  1. Summer Bree Nichols's Avatar Summer Bree Nichols

    I agree with the above comments church is not a building god doesn’t reside in a structure he resides in are hearts pastors and clergyman need to get this in there heads let’s keep are members safe

  1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

    I have addressed this issue about the governments ability to close churches in previous discussions. The government cannot do that within reason which is only in part protected by the Constitution. Many outraged citizens have never really read or properly interpreted the Constitution, but that being said I will continue.

    In many instances, it was local governments, which precluded churches from opening based on faulty orders. Churches are not a business so they do not fall under the emergency orders section of most government bodies unless specifically targeted. (This part is illegal under the Constitution). In most cases it was the church leaders which decided to close for the good of the congregants. Weather permitting, there is nothing which would violate an order by holding outdoor services which followed CDC guidelines for distancing and proper hygienic practices.

    This would have also been a good time to have preachers actually read passages of the bible in relation to where God actually resides (hint: not in a church building). I am sure that earthly greed plays a great part in the calls for churches to reopen which is actually going against Gods word in other parts of the bible.

    If pastors, priests and ministers were truly wanting to lead the sheeple of the church, they should have all gotten together to pray and then volunteered to give out meals or provided other services to those who need it (also instructed to Gods people in the bible). It is sadly obvious to me that these so called "Christians" never read the word of God and live it. If they truly want to worship God then maybe they should listen to his instructions for us.

    1. Marge Bacci's Avatar Marge Bacci

      Agree. Otherwise there wouldn't be so much sexual iand other impurities if they would teach and practice the Bible

  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    I realize the economy is hurting,but the covid 19 virus hasn't disappeared.It;s still in the environment.Please practice safe distancing,stay 6ft apart.It's life or deatrh.

  1. CB's Avatar CB

    Here is a very interesting video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm2Yxmpy90k&feature=youtu.be

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I expect these openings and closings to happen numerous times before we've all been administered a vaccine well over a year from now. That's okay, I like my home, and enjoy my company, and won't be going any place other than the convenience store a few blocks away, at around six in the morning, until after I get that vaccine, regardless of how many times those fools say it's safe to come out and play, even if I can't vote this year. Just keep those stimulus payments coming. Me and my church at www.amazon.com very much appreciate it.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Perhaps people who have a need to worship in designated buildings should be allowed to choose for themselves, and hopefully those that do will also follow the appropriate government guidelines.

    🦁❤️

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    And what freaking part of

    "Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

    Seems to be so darn hard for people to understand?

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