LYMAN, Miss. (WLOX) - A socially-distanced crowd filled the pews of First Baptist Church Lyman on Sunday.
It was a sight pastor Josh Cougle was happy to finally see. This is the church’s first in-person service since closing its doors more than two months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s just something special about being with God’s people in the place that we kind of come together and worship, and I know that you can do worship and you can worship from home, but there’s just something special about this that you just don’t get on your TV or whatever," Cougle said.
There were several safety measures in place. Among them, every other pew was roped off, and individuals and families were required to sit six feet apart. The church also used contactless methods for giving instead of passing around offering plates. The entire church was sanitized before Sunday’s service.
“We did everything we could so people could be around each other without being close to each other," Cougle said.
Last week, President Donald Trump deemed churches as essential, urging them to reopen. Cougle said while he had already decided to reopen before that announcement, it did confirm his decision. He said a lot of thought went into making this decision, one he recognizes is controversial.
“It’s not our intent to offend, but at the same time, we know we need to get together, and as adults that can make good rational decisions, we just kind of felt like it was time to try,” he said.
Members were glad to be back.
“I loved coming to church today because I haven’t been to church in so long, and it’s been so great to see the pastor and everybody else,” said Rieley Burgess.
“I think people are getting a little bit distant from God, and I think we need a little bit more of that. Just good spirits, and uplifting people to be around and just get a little bit of social interacting but still practicing social distance," said Austin Delano.
Cougle is urging those who are high risk or uncomfortable with returning to stay at home. He said he will continue to live stream his services for those who decide to do so.