RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A North Carolina federal court ruling allowed churches to reopen for indoor services last Sunday, but this weekend is the first time they’ve been allowed to reopen under the state’s Phase Two plan.
People worshiped together inside Beacon Baptist Church in Raleigh for the first time in 11 weeks.
“It was a great experience to see them, but it was a good experience to hear all of us singing together and have people actually see their faces,” said Pastor Tim Rabon.
The church sat people every other row, asking them to social distance. That limited them to about 20 percent of the auditorium’s capacity.
They encouraged people to wear masks and required them for ushers and greeters.
Rabon said they provided hand sanitizer and minimized contact where they could.
“The last thing we want is to infect any of the people we love and know,” said Rabon.
President Donald Trump labeled churches and other houses of worship as “essential” on Friday and called on governors to let them reopen this weekend.
“I’m thankful for our president and I’m glad for his understanding that houses of worship are to be open and are essential,” said Rabon. “Here we are in a period of time where domestic abuse has risen, where alcohol and drug abuse has risen, where depression and suicide is rising, and the place that has some of the answers can’t even open and operate.”
Gov. Roy Cooper allowed churches to reopen with guidelines in Phase Two.
Beacon Baptist Church was part of the lawsuit filed against the state that claimed the executive order violated their constitutional rights. Rabon said the lawsuit is now moot and void due to houses of worship being included in Phase Two.
Some churches are still choosing to delay holding indoor services.
At Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, they’re keeping their doors closed until at least the state’s next phase of reopening.
“I understand there’s no alternative format that can equal being together and yet I do feel this is our sacred responsibility at this time,” said Pastor Andrew Taylor-Troutman with Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. “The love of your neighbor these days looks like wearing a mask, love of your neighbor looks like taking precautions because in times of uncertainty, what we can rely on is the strength of kindness and we can fall back on the golden rule that we would do to others that we would like for them to do to us.”
He said they’re using this as an opportunity to be creative and spread love in new ways.
“It is important to say that our church is never closed,” said Taylor-Troutman.
Beacon Baptist Church said they’re reopening in their own three-phase plan.
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