Some churches leaders in CT say they’re pleased yet anxious over changes coming to services in Phase 3


WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Oct. 8 can’t come soon enough for church leaders around Connecticut. News 8 found the leaders of two churches in Waterbury and New Haven anxious for that day.

It’s the day Phase 3 of the state’s reopening begins. After that, churches are allowed to have more members return for in-person services.

For Grace Baptist Church in Waterbury, it’ll mean the first time since March it will be able to hold Sunday service inside the sanctuary.

“It’s a sigh of relief,” said Sr. Pastor Kristopher Reece. “It’s a fresh breathe of air for us being able to come back into the sanctuary after worshipping in our parking lot for the past six months.”

Father John Paul Walker, Pastor of St. Mary Church in New Haven, said his church has been having smaller-than-normal numbers at services during the pandemic. The state has allowed churches to have limited capacity — 25 percent, capped at 100 people.

He told News 8 he’s had to turn some people away.

“Phase 3 will be very important to us,” said Father Walker. “At the larger of our masses, we’ve been pushing the absolute limit of what we’re allowed to have in the church at one time under Phase Two.”

Once Phase 3 begins, churches will be able to have 50 percent capacity, capped at 200 people for indoor services.

Even though both churches have — like many others — been creative digitally delivering the word of God online and on social media during these tough times, both church leaders said there’s nothing like the in-person church experience.

Both churches have brought in cleaning companies to sanitize their churches and they’re fully stocked with hand sanitizer. Social distancing and face mask signs are up, too.

Grace Baptist will continue to keep crowd size down a bit after Oct. 8, since its members are older and the congregation has been touched by COVID-19.

“One of our families who lost four members to this virus actually had a celebration of life for their sister out in Meriden a couple of weeks ago, and the pain is just so real,” said Pastor Reece.

For Connecticut’s Catholics in the Archdiocese of Hartford, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair shared this message: “Anyone who has a fear about their health should not feel constrained to go to mass. And that we encourage the elderly, those who have health conditions, and such — not to come.”

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