North Carolina churches remain closed on Sunday after Governor Cooper orders no 'mass gatherings’

Updated: Mar. 15, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) -Churches all across the state of North Carolina remained closed after Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order to half mass gatherings.

The gatherings include conventions, sports gatherings, even church services.

Those congregations that were allowed to meet – like Long Shoals Wesleyan in Lincolnton – had a number of members that managed to fall under the 100 person threshold that the governor set.

“God can be glorified through this,” said Jon Mann, Senior Pastor at Long Shoals Wesleyan. “The world’s looking at us for directions and guidance and – if we fail – who can they look for?”

The church members at Long Shoals were small but joyful, praising, praying and heeding the advice of their leader.

“We have to be serious about washing our hands,” Pastor Mann could be heard saying as he addressed his church. “We have to be serious about hand sanitizer and things like that. But most of all, this is the time for Christians to shine.”

All guests were greeted by deacons at the door, hands holding a squirt of hand sanitizer before they entered. Signs on the entrance doors read “Please no hugs or handshakes. DO knuckles and elbows”.

Meanwhile, churches just around the corner like Pisgah United Methodist Church remained silent, their signs reminding people to join Facebook lives for service.

Other historical churches, such as Saint Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte, utilized their online services to reach their members.

Still others, like Shannon Bennett who found herself at Long Shoals, needed someplace else to go.

“We’re here because the church we normally would go to had to close because they’re too large,” said Bennett.

Bennett said that she understands why Governor Cooper made the decision under guidance from health officials. However, she says it’s hard to agree with turning people away from a place of peace and hope in times of great stress and worry for the general public.

“We need God to turn this from us,” said Bennett. “If we humble ourselves…we should be in the house of God.”

However, a ray of positivity as Bennett reflects on what this new order means:

“You don’t get to see your kids often,” said Bennett. “Value this time. Play a game together, watch a movie with your kids. Watch a church service together. Pray together.”

Both Bennett and Pastor Mann agreed, though, that this order could mean that people that typically attend larger churches may, in turn, visit smaller congregations in their neighborhood and get to know other people of the faith.

“There so much doubt, there’s so much going on in the world,” said Mann. “It’s time for us to be the church we’re supposed to be.”

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