With Baker County in phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, some local churches are welcoming back their congregations after relying on alternatives such as online sermons during the coronavirus pandemic.
Phase 2, which Baker County started on June 6, allows for indoor gatherings of up to 50 people, but some facilities, such as churches and movie theaters, can have up to 250 people if the venue is large enough to ensure social distancing.
Calvary Baptist Church in Baker City has continued in-person services during the pandemic by dividing the congregation and having two separate services.
During phase 1, from May 15 through June 5, the church required its members to wear face masks.
However, with larger groups allowed under phase 2, church elder Karl Wittich said the church will return to a single Sunday service. Face masks are optional, not required.
St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church won’t be fully opening, but the church will likely increase its capacity for services from 25 to 50.
“We’ve been sanitizing the pews and doors and doing 6-foot distancing,” said Dawn Coles, parish secretary.
To comply with guidelines, the church has been skipping two pews for every full one, and has been careful to keep adequate distance between families.
Harvest Church, which usually has about 300 worshippers, has continued doing small group in-person services, but the bulk of its services have been online or parking lot services.
On Easter, the church drew on the idea of a drive-in movie to create “parking lot services,” where members tuned into a radio station, 107.9, and listened to the service while in their cars.
As phase 2 comes into effect, the Harvest Church plans to split services into two and hopes to be able to have around 150 people per service, if they can comply with social distancing guidelines.
Troy Teeter, head pastor at the Baker City Church of the Nazarene, said “people are really excited” to return to regular services.
Teeter said the church plans on having two separate services for at least June 14, 21 and 28, one in the main church at 9 a.m. and one at 10:30 a.m. in the Family Life Center, a separate building.
The church also plans to have a secure offering box instead of passing around an offering plate, and the Eucharist offerings will be individually wrapped.
The hardest part, Teeter said, is the coming and going of people through the doorways when the service begins and ends, but the church is asking its members to wear face masks during these times.
Teeter also said that while he understands people have different ideas and beliefs on the situation, he’s trying his best to comply with what science and government health officials are saying.