CLEVELAND — Churches, which have so often been the source of spiritual guidance, had received little practical guidance from the government regarding COVID-19, until today.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control offered new suggestions, such as reducing the sharing of holy books.
Even before that, however, many places of worship were planning to reopen on their own terms this weekend, keeping COVID-19 in mind.
“I asked myself the question, “Would I be okay if one of my closest family members came anywhere inside of this church?” said Pastor Larry Macon of Mount Zion of Oakwood Village.
His church mapped a way forward by removing armrests, spacing out the choir and limiting the crowd this Sunday.
At one time 1700 people could fit inside. This weekend, there are just 300 seats.
Macon said it could stay that way for a while.
“We’re being told that this might be a long-term dance. It won’t be a, you know, 3, 6-months kind of a dance. It could be a year, 2-year, it could be up to 10 years,” he said. “We don’t know.”
For days, President Trump has described churches, synagogues and mosques as “essential” and threatened recourse on governors who refused to treat them as such.
“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” President Trump said Friday.
Yet in some instances, opening has caused problems.
A church in Houston closed after a priest died from coronavirus, and now, more than 100 parishioners are in quarantine.
In Palermo, California close to 200 church goers may have been exposed by a congregant who tested positive following a Mother’s Day service.
This week, the Diocese of Cleveland released a video saying masks must be worn from the time you leave your car and be pulled down only to receive the Eucharist.
For those not yet ready to return, dispensation has been extended.
Though many houses of worship did close in Ohio to keep parishioners safe, Governor DeWine never ordered them to be shut down.
Some took creative steps, such as allowing people to worship from their cars.
Others offered virtual services, while this weekend, some are still choosing to stay shut.