In-person worship returns

Cullman First Baptist Church Pastor Tom Richter (video capture)

CULLMAN, Ala. – As the community inches toward to its “new normal” in the time of COVID-19, churches are opening their doors to in-person worship services once more. Restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather in non-work-related gatherings were lifted May 11, 2020.

“It is so wonderful to be back together at Grace Chapel. We have missed worshiping together,” said Grace Chapel Kids and Family Pastor Joey Orr. “We have taken many precautions to help maintain social distancing guidelines. Rows are 6 feet apart and households have been asked to sit together. Three chairs are skipped between different households. We now have two services and people clean in between each service. We are not passing out bulletins and we are having people turn and wave at people instead of a greeting time. We currently do not have a nursery or children’s worship.”

Orr said some church members are still worshiping from home.

“A few families and some of our older members have chosen to continue to participate in worship through our Facebook live (stream) of the service, and we are supporting them in that decision,” she said. “We want people to return as they feel comfortable. We hope to add back some small groups in the next few weeks.”

First Baptist Church (FBC) Cullman Pastor Tom Richter shared his church’s “six steps to safer return,” which began when the church resumed in-person services this past Sunday May 24.

“Step one is considering whether or not you should continue worshiping online,” he said. “Step two, if it’s beneficial for you to gather physically, you say, ‘I’m in a lower-risk category, I’m going to worship in person.’ We have four in-person services at 8 a.m., 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. We have reserved space based on Sunday School class. You look and find what time your Sunday school class has been reserved for that space and that’s what time you’ll go.”

Richter continued, “Step three is remain in your vehicle 10 to 15 minutes before your service time. The entrances that will be open are the entrances by the Pointe and Fellowship Hall. Those are the only doors that will be open to enter through. Step four is to pick a spot for you and your family in the ROC (recreational outreach center); the seats are arranged in socially distant groups of four. If your family needs more than four chairs, we’ll move two groups together and an usher will help you do that in a safe way.”

Richter said face masks aren’t required, but he encourages churchgoers to wear them.

Step five is to just simply worship: “We will wave at one another instead of handshakes and greeting time. No bulletins or sign-up sheets will be distributed. Offering will be collected in drop boxes at each exit to avoid passing plates.”

Step six, after worship, is to smoothly exit: “After the benediction, smoothly and quickly exit out the exterior doors (facing U.S. Highway 31). This will allow us to reset for the next service.”

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Grace Chapel is seen Monday, May 25, 2020. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)