By Jeff Shultz
Churches in Garvin County are making plans to return to public worship after Gov. Kevin Stitt announced last week that churches could return to regular worship services beginning Sunday, May 3.
However, some of the stipulations imposed by phase one of Stitt’s plan to reopen the state make a return to congregational worship anything but normal.
The plan calls for church members to maintain social distancing, which entails leaving every other row of pews empty and requires church members, who are not members of a family, to sit six feet away from each other. It also requires church nurseries to remain closed.
For many Garvin County churches, the stipulations are difficult to accommodate.
“We plan on doing what we’ve been doing these past few weeks,” said Rev. Mike Deviney, pastor of the Maysville First United Methodist Church.
Deviney has been preaching from a flatbed trailer while church members park in the church’s parking lot for the Sunday morning service.
Deviney told the News Star he doesn’t know when his church will return to regular worship services.
Meanwhile, the Maysville church of Christ will continue to suspend worship services until restrictions are fully lifted.
First Baptist Church of Maysville will resume its 11 a.m. service beginning Sunday, May 3. There will be no Sunday school or nursery and no Sunday night service.
“We will continue broadcasting via Facebook Live for those who prefer to join us online. We encourage high-risk folks to engage online,” the church stated on its Facebook page.
The Stratford church of Christ is taking a “wait and see” attitude as to when church members will return to worshipping in the sanctuary.
“Our members are continuing to worship separately in their homes until a decision is made,” said church minister Bill Jones.
Pauls Valley churches have a wide variety of plans to return to congregational worship.
Valley Life Church Pastor Andy Davidson said they will continue to stream their services on Facebook for now and plan to resume corporate worship on May 10, with two services to allow for adequate social distancing.
The House has also decided to continue to livestream their services and wait a little longer before setting a date to open their sanctuary doors again.
Pauls Valley’s Trinity Baptist Church will stream its service on Facebook for the next two Sundays and then offer parishioners a choice of two Sunday morning services beginning May 17.
“We’ll have a nine o’clock and eleven o’clock service,” Pastor Dwayne Johnson explained.
Johnson said those attending the 9 a.m. service will be asked to sit on the west side of the sanctuary, and those attending the 11 a.m. service will be asked to sit on the east side.
“We will take out every other row of chairs, and we’re asking church members to sit three chairs away from each other,” he said.
Johnson said family members could sit together, but away from other church members.
“We’ll also have hand sanitizer and masks available for church members to use if they want to,” he added.
However, church members who are at high-risk or feeling sick are asked to stay home and watch the 11 a.m. service, which will be streamed on Facebook.
“If there is one good thing this pandemic has shown us, it’s that it has opened up a new ministry for us,” Johnson said, noting the church will continue to stream its services long after the pandemic is over.
Johnson said the livestream has appealed to former church members as well as potential church members since the church started streaming the service.
Trinity’s activity center will also house overflow seating for worshippers, in case one of the services fills up beyond social-distancing capacity.
Johnson said for now the church will not have services on Sunday night and Wednesday night, and there will be no children’s church during the services.