PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Faith leaders statewide are making plans to reopen church buildings and welcome parishioners who have been worshipping at home during the pandemic.
Gov. Tate Reeves released eight pages of guidelines Tuesday afternoon. The list suggests a separate service for the most vulnerable, holding more services to better allow social distancing and limiting the number of people inside at one time.
The governor also suggests replacing choirs with solo performers and avoid passing an offering plate. Even with the new guidelines in place, many churches won’t be resuming in-person worship services any time soon.
“Slower is better, slower is better. We have the rest of our lives to worship together," said Rev. Larry G. Hawkins Sr. of Union Baptist Church in Pascagoula. “As pastors, we are responsible for our parishioners and we have to do all we can to assure that they are safe. The health of the people is the most important thing right now. This is a health issue and not a spiritual issue. We are able to worship online and keep people safe right now and we are going to do that right now.”
Pastor Sonny Adolph of the First Missionary Baptist Church in Gulfport echoed the sentiment and compared the situation to a pop culture classic.
“Well actually, this whole thing reminds me of the movie ‘Jaws’, where the mayor and the businessmen were eager to open the beaches in spite of the hazard that was in the water," quipped the pastor. "I think that right now both our economics and politics are driving us instead of safety. Right now, I cannot go visit a member in the hospital and, while that is so, I don’t think it is safe for the member to come see me.”
Catholic churches in the area believe that they can adhere to the new guidelines and are set to open this weekend.
“We are prepared to do whatever it takes basically to get back to some sense of normalcy and having a congregation is what we’re familiar with,” said Rev. Henry McInerney of Our Lady of Fatima Parish.