Arizona churches across the entire state have been greatly impacted over the past few months. In-person services have been cancelled due to COVID-19 and many have had to adjust to how they serve their communities.
With the restrictions slowly lifting and businesses beginning the process to open back up, churches may be doing the same soon.
State House Rep. Tim Dunn (R-Yuma) is encouraging religious institutions across Arizona to re-open and allow congregants to worship, as long a social distancing and other safety measures are in place.
His church was one of the first to bring members back. “We did actually have hand sanitizer for folks that came in, and masks available if someone didn’t have one,” said Dunn. “We went in like an event center where you reserved spots. We had families sit together and then we had two chairs in between each family.”
Arizona’s attorney general Mark Brnovich recently issued a legal opinion that churches and other religious groups are considered essential businesses and can hold services if and when they choose.
However many church leaders have been reluctant to encourage large gatherings, for fear of putting their congregants at risk.
Christ Church of the Valley (CCV), which is known for their large congregations and currently have 11 campuses around the valley has remained diligent in keeping their congregation healthy. They have closely monitored the situation and have all along been committed to keeping their weekly faith sermons available online. The change to services being viewed online is solely a precautionary effort to avoid spreading of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in large gatherings. CCV feels they have a responsibility to their members and attendees to maintain their safety. Since the pandemic in the state began, their church services have not been cancelled, they just look different temporarily and can be easily accessed in the comfort of your own home.
Dave Summers, a senior pastor at the Paradise Valley United Methodist Church said they have a large congregation, with a number of older, more vulnerable members. Right now, his church has no plans to start up in-person services again. “We have a great desire to want to be back together, but we recognize that is not going to be safe or feasible for quite some time,” said Summers. “We think it’s better to hold off and wait. We have found that by doing on-line worship, we can still connect with people.”
Some church leaders said they won’t feel comfortable holding in-person services quite yet and it may take several months to see church opening their doors to their congregations again.