Churches react to Gov. Bill Lee’s reopening guidelines

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Many churches have improvised a new way of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic and service cancellations.

Online and drive-in churches have become the new normal way to worship, but Friday, Gov. Bill Lee released guidelines for churches to begin congregating again.

SEE ALSO: Reopening Tennessee: Places of worship should ‘supply cloth face coverings’ and ‘ensure seating is spaced out’

These guidelines include families sitting in groups six feet apart, mandatory masks, and keeping attendance at 50% capacity.

News Channel 11’s Anslee Daniel spoke to River of Tri-Cities pastor Todd Holmes, who said the church will reopen its doors May 3.

“We have hand sanitizer and wipes at the doors, gloves, a digital scan thermometer — we’re pretty much all ready,” Holmes said. “I expect we’ll have probably most of our people come, and if so, we need to go into extra services. We’re prepared to do that. We’re also prepared to increase our capacity.”

Other churches, however, have chosen to remain online only for now.

Grandview Christian Church pastor Aaron Wymer said that the church needs more time to devise a game plan to ensure worshipers’ safety.

“We’re going to need time to ramp it back up,” Wymer said. “[There is] A lot of volunteerism at church, so you need time to recruit people. You need to figure out what you’re going to do with children because children in a Sunday school setting won’t keep six feet of distance. So, we’ll have to think all those little things through.”

Wymer proposed the church might reduce service times to leave windows of time to clean between services.

“When we do start services back, they will likely be a little shorter so that we can get more in and have people be able to get out and cleanse things in the sanctuary, the doors, and everything before allowing people to be back in,” Wymer said.

The congregation at Grandview isn’t alone; the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church ordered all church buildings remain closed until further notice.

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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