Trying to balance the hunger to return to worship by their congregants with the need for public safety, local pastors and church officials have worked tirelessly and diligently to open up sanctuaries once again.
Notre Dame Catholic Church opened its doors over the weekend for the first time in more than 10 weeks, limiting seating, requiring masks and implementing many other safety procedures to allow parishoners to participate in-person during mass.
Ray and Kathy LeBlanc were happy to wear their masks, reserve a “ticket” and social distance while attending Sunday’s mass.
“We are so happy to be back,” Kathy said. “You could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and that makes all the difference.”
The couple agreed that church officials have done a good job of protecting parishoners, saying that the requirements to attend were well thought out.
“I definitely felt safe,” Kathy said. “We probably took it (going to mass) for granted too much before.”
Kathy said she and her husband participated in mass virtually, but added the in-person experience is not comparable.
Notre Dame usher Patrick Tinley said the transition was smooth and all in attendance seemed happy to comply with the requirements.
“It was great, it’s just a learning curve for everyone,” Tinley said.
Survey of other churches
An informal survey of some area churches shows some have created in-person worship services with revisions in seating, and use of face masks, in addition to using some of the available digital and video options to broadcast pastors’ messages.
And some have not resumed services at all, yet, and are waiting for further guidelines and/or loosening of restrictions.
Trinity Baptist Church
The pastor and staff of Trinity Baptist are using a combination of in-person services and live-steaming to give the congregation the choice of worship services.
Clint Brown, minister of business administration, said leaders met May 17 and “Step 1” for them begins with only holding in-person services in their main worship center; with couples or families wearing face masks as they enter and leave, socially distanced in the pews during the three services,
Brown said there’s no child care at this time; and in addition they are live-streaming all three services over their website at www.tbck.org.
Those services are at 8:30, 10 and 11:30 a.m. on Sundays.
Brown said they are recommending to their congregation members who are of vulnerable age and health not to attend in person, but to watch one of the live-streamed services.
Assembly of God
Pastor Phil Jackson at the Assembly of God Church on Jefferson and Washington streets said they started holding services at 50 percent capacity several weeks ago. And since they also have been offering child care, especially for essential workers, their facility has not shut down during this virus fight.
“We started with social distancing, by Gov. (Greg) Abbott’s guidelines; and added taking each person’s temperature as they entered,” he said. “Our volunteers wear masks and gloves as they interact with everyone.”
He said they sanitize every touch-point three or more times per day.
Their services and day care are offered with the addition of their food distribution every two weeks, and emergency feeding via requests on the church’s website.
“We even had a drive-up Easter service outdoors here.
“God is not quarantined,” Jackson said. “But it’s hard to see it going back to what we used to call ‘normal.’ We are using pre-packaged Communion items here now, too.”
He said they are encouraging those with underlying conditions to stay home, but some of them have been coming back to the services in person.
Jackson said it’s complicating things for them that to re-open providing child care services, they also now must fulfill 13 pages of rules sent out by the state. That includes reduced classroom sizes by about five children (it varies by age group) and hire more teachers to have the same number of children in the day care.
First United Methodist Church
Senior Pastor David Payne said they first made an announcement on May 24, that they are adding two outdoor live services at Mount Wesley starting Sunday, June 7, one on Sunday morning and one in the evening.
“We’ll be following the CDC guidelines, including social distancing and face masks,” Payne said. “It will be held at the back of the camp near the basketball area – we’re calling it ‘The Grove,’ and we’re asking everyone to bring their own chairs.”
Payne said if members are vulnerable in age or health or not feeling well, they are being urged not to attend the live services.
He said they will continue their digital services long-term, via the church’s website and on Facebook.
Riverside Church of Christ
The office staff at Riverside Church of Christ said last week that worship services have not resumed there, and the elders are preparing plans for the next few weeks.
Pastor Kevin Kasparek started in early April ministering via recorded sermons on the church’s YouTube channel. The worship minister Cooper Atkeson also posts songs for members to sing along with each Sunday.
There also is a Bible Class offered the same way on Wednesday nights; and the outreach minister posts a program for children on Facebook at 2 p.m. on Monday through Thursdays.
Hosanna Lutheran Church
David Bass, pastor at Hosanna Lutheran Church, has been live-streaming church services every Sunday at 10 a.m. on their website, www.hosannalutheran.org.
The church office staffs said Bass and the staff hope to resume in-person services on June 7.
Salvation Army Kroc Center
Captains David and Beth Swyers at the Salvation Army have been holding “live” church services in their chapel for the last three Sundays.
Beth Swyers said their Sunday worship service is at 11 a.m. with no Sunday School at the present time; and the services offered online at the Salvation Army Facebook page at the same time.
The in-person service is held with social distancing among families in the seating; and during May and June only the 11 a.m. service will be held.
“We’re having them sit in every other row, and have hand-sanitizer for everyone. And we’re not passing the offering plate. We’re having someone hold it at the door at the end of the service.”
Unity of the Hill Country
The Unity Church of the Hill Country on Jefferson Street has not resumed church service at this time.
The church office posted a message on the telephone answering machine that the church leaders don’t know when they might resume services.
The message said they are watching the state’s announcements about numbers of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus.
A recording on the telephone number of the Calvary Temple says the church office is closed, and those seeking information can leave a message.
The message says Pastor Del Way is broadcasting services at 9 and 11 a.m. on Sundays and at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
The services also are being broadcasts on the church’s website at www.ctc.church and on their Facebook page.
In general, church members and visitors should check the churches’ websites or possible Facebook pages; and/or call the church offices to ask questions.