Local pastors discuss guidance for places of worship

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - City and spiritual leaders met Thursday morning to discuss suggestions for how places of worship can re-open safely.

“We really just thought about what’s the best way to ensure that the people we serve will come to our places of worship and we can be safe, we can be effective, and provide that example of not only spiritual leadership, but being socially responsible,” said Pastor Gary D. Houston, the president of the local Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. “And so it’s just important that we value our time together, and in valuing that time together that we do it responsibly, and we be good citizens.”

A group of pastors has been meeting over the past few weeks discussing some ideas.

“I’m very glad that a team of pastors came up with guidelines for our community,” says Meridian Mayor Percy Bland. “We had a diverse team of pastors.”

Some of the guidance pastors came up with were limiting attendance to 50% capacity, avoiding hugs and handshakes and dismissing attendees in sections.

“I just tell church leaders [that] you need to act as if there are people who have COVID in your sanctuary every Sunday morning that you meet and make appropriate plans for that,” says Pastor Wade Phillips, the executive pastor at Northcrest Baptist Church. “Assume it, and then you will make the right plans for it, I think.”

Bland says these are not city mandates, but instead recommendations.

There will be a conference call this Saturday at 11 a.m. for any pastor who has questions about the recommendations. The conference call number is 720-650-3030; the access code is 7291706.

The rest of the guidelines included by the city of Meridian:

Thorough facility cleaning prior to all services

Only immediate families should sit together

Avoid passing of offering plates or communion trays

Bulletins should be distributed by gloved ushers

Skip pews to facilitate social distancing

Masks should be worn when entering and exiting facilities

Families should maintain 6 foot distance between other families

Choirs should maintain social distance and avoid sharing microphones, hymnals, etc.

Encourage at-risk members, specifically those 65 and older, to participate remotely

Provide disposable masks to congregants

Make hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water, or similar disinfectant readily available

Screening of congregants before entering facilities for temperatures that exceed 100.4