Many return to NC churches to worship in person as coronavirus vaccines available, case counts lower

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With COVID-19 vaccines widely available and restrictions loosening, more people are returning to worship in-person.

“We were a little worried that people would be so used to watching online that they would say, ‘well, why not just stay with this?,” said Father Bruce Bavinger, S.J., of St. Raphael Catholic Church in Raleigh.

While many parishioners still stream video of mass online, more and more are returning to the pews each week.

“We started off with sitting people every third pew, and then at a certain point, we started seating them every other pew, which would allow more people to come in,” said Bavinger. “So we’re having to plan for being too full.”

Bavinger tells CBS 17 sometimes there still isn’t enough room.

“We also have an indoor overflow place, which I think fills up pretty readily,” he said. “At times, the plaza gets a good crowd, too.”

The need for more space began around Lent, and grows as restrictions ease and people get vaccinated.

“I actually got the vaccine on April 26 and I’ve been coming since then,” said Marina Gray, who spent the past year watching mass online. “Definitely with me having the vaccine, I feel safer coming inside and actually interacting and beign around people.”

For others, safety is less of a concern. The Mopili Family has attended mass throughout the pandemic.

“We’re lucky to be in church in person,” said parishioner Leon Mopili. “It’s very nice for also the kids, they can learn a lot.”

As churches make more room the rules of social distancing and masks are still required.

“And bringing communion to people in the pews instead of them coming up to the alter, ” said Bavinger. “So those things are still in place, but I frankly can’t wait until it’s all gone and things are back to normal.”

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