WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — A spokesperson with the Hartford Archdiocese told News 8 that on Wednesday some Connecticut churches could get guidance on eventual reopening plans. This, after President Donald Trump upped the rhetoric to push for churches to reopen across the country.
But, when News 8 asked churchgoers in two Connecticut cities, where the coronavirus has hit hard, the president’s push wasn’t getting a lot of praise.
“A lot of the parishioners are elderly, and those are the people we need to keep safe,” said Charles Senich, of Waterbury. “When science believes it’s safe to go back in the churches that’s probably what we should do as a state and as a country.”
Joyce Pettaway goes to Grace Baptist Church in Waterbury and knows a member of the congregation who died because of COVID-19. Pettaway has concerns about the closeness of people in the pews.
“I mean, you know, the singing,” she said. “The saliva — it travels.”
Pastor James Lilley at the House of Prayer Church in Waterbury believes churches could reopen if careful safety measures are taken. He’s already planning some of those safety steps. More than 10 members of his congregation caught the coronavirus and recovered from it.
Among the safety measures he’s examining are three weeks of deep cleaning all church surfaces, bathrooms professionally cleaned, all carpets steam cleaned and HVAC/filters of the air conditioner have been changed. His church will also require people to check-in at a temperature-taking station and utilize hand sanitizing stations. A trained usher will seat parishioners and make sure they’re 6 feet apart. They’ll have a one direction entrance and exit, be required to register online for tickets for services and wear face masks.
With these safety measures taken, Pastor Lilley believes he could reopen his church by the end of June.
Pastor Reece at Grace Baptist Church believes a more comfortable opening for churches would be the beginning of September.
For now, he’s using unorthodox methods to reach the members of his congregation. He does a mid-day Bible study conference call. But, his most successful change due to COVID-19 has been moving Sunday services outside to his parking lot. Members of the congregation show up in their cars to hear his service in person or they can enjoy the service from the comfort of their own homes because they’re streamed live on Facebook.
Ironically, Pastor Reece said that’s turned out to be a blessing.
“Before I used to see 200 members on a Sunday morning,” he said. “Now, I see 2,000 every Sunday.”
Pastor Reece said so far, there’s been no guidance from the state as far as reopening churches is concerned. He chalks that up to the governor being busy trying to get Connecticut companies and small businesses back on track first.
News 8 will monitor whatever information is released from the Archdiocese of Hartford on Wednesday.