Churches respond to COVID-19, First Amendment ruling – Morganton News Herald

Posted: May 29, 2020 at 1:02 am

The Burke County community may be wondering if the recent ruling from the North Carolina federal court allowing churches to resume indoor services will change the way church services are currently held.

Livestreaming worship services, Bible studies and prayer meetings through Facebook and YouTube have been well-received in the community and beyond, according to many Burke County church pastors.

Viewing is significantly higher than our regular attendance, said the Rev. George Logan, pastor of New Day Christian Church. Many of our members are sharing messages with their family and friends. Weve gotten positive messages and comments from people from around our community, as well as the country and abroad.

Many churches provide a CD of the service to watch for church members who are not on Facebook or YouTube or who may not be technologically savvy. Members also check in on them by phone.

First Baptist Church of Morganton also reaches out to members by mailing a weekly newsletter and offers its Sunday morning service livestream on CoMPAS Cable Channel 2.

Judging from the numbers of people viewing the Sunday morning services, it appears that we are reaching hundreds of viewers each week, said the Rev. Dr. Tom Bland Jr., senior pastor at FBC of Morganton. I suspect that other churches that have been conducting online services have had similar experiences.

Chambers Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Glen Alpine offer drive-up services Sundays. Gaston Chapel AME hosts praise in the parking lot services, and First Baptist Church of Icard holds services on the church grounds with attendees spaced 6 feet apart.

This information is current as of May 20, 2020 and includes information from more than 70 communities served by Lee newspapers. Please check directly with the place of worship for any change in status or services prior to attending or tuning in.

On Saturday, May 16, Judge James C. Dever III, of the Eastern District of North Carolina federal court, issued a temporary restraining order blocking the government from enforcing Gov. Roy Coopers executive order banning indoor religious services, ruling that it was a violation of the First Amendment, according to a previous News Herald article.

The lawsuit was filed by the Rev. Ronnie Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem; Return America Inc.; and Peoples Baptist Church Inc. A hearing is scheduled for May 29.

A few pastors in the community offered to shed some light on how they will serve their congregations amid the new ruling and COVID-19.

Logan said they will eventually begin to hold indoor services, but not until they have a comprehensive plan in place, which they are working on now.

It is of utmost importance to accurately discern what Gods spirit is saying to us, Logan said. If we do so, we will effectively minister to and protect our members, while still respecting authority.

Bland said they followed the governors executive order precisely and voluntarily for many reasons, but mainly for the concern for the health and safety of church members and visitors.

Our church presently is praying about and exploring (the) next steps as we anticipate that our state soon will transition into Phase 2 of its reopening, Bland said. We have made no decisions yet, at least through the end of May and possibly longer. (Before) any changes, we will prepare our facilities as fully as possible through strict adherence to (the) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Thrive Church is allowing indoor services beginning May 24, where members must register on Facebook to attend the 10:45 a.m. service. Seating is limited to 50 people. Masks and social distancing are mandatory. Families are allowed to sit together.

Bland explained what we need to remember to continue to protect people from the virus.

We do not want to risk jeopardizing the health of anyone who might attend, he said. We want to strive to obey the biblical commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, including through how we conduct ourselves as a church family as this pandemic continues.

Barbara Jolly-Deakle is a News Herald correspondent and a member of the Morganton Writers Group. She can be reached at BabbyWrites@CompasCable.net.

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Churches respond to COVID-19, First Amendment ruling - Morganton News Herald

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