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Churches prepare for first in-person services in nearly 2 months, must be held outside

Updated: May. 15, 2020 at 5:39 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina churches, synagogues and other faith communities are making the tough decision this weekend to reopen or stick to streaming services.

According to Phase 1 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan, faith communities can hold services outside only.

That means that this weekend, some churches are preparing to host their first in-person in nearly two months. For churchgoers, it’s their first outdoor services as well.

However, as anything goes in this new normal, it presents some challenges.

The Good Shepherd Church in Steele Creek is excited to finally welcome back their congregation in the safest way possible.

The church’s lead pastor announced their plans in a video they posted online.

“I have some really exciting news I want to share with you,” said Pastor Talbot Davis, “We’re going to gather in-person to worship on May 17.”

The next step is figuring out how to safely conduct church services.

“Safety is our top priority, so we’ve done everything possible to allow for that to happen,” said April Portrais, the Director of Communications at Good Shepherd Church.

The church is using spraypaint to help remind people to keep their distance.

Volunteers spent the day on Friday spraying lines across their parking lot, all 10 feet apart.

When Sunday rolls around, church members will sit on their lawn chairs along the spray-painted lines and separate from other families.

Good Shepherd Church is also encouraging members to wear masks, stick to online services if they’re sick, and even have distanced activities for the kids so they don’t get to close to others.

Portrais said many congregation members are happy to have some sense of community to look forward to.

“It has been difficult," Portrais said. “A lot of people have said they didn’t realize they missed having face-to-face interaction with people until it wasn’t there anymore.”

The church staff realizes that the parking lot isn’t exactly the same feel as sitting in pews surrounded by stain glass windows.

However, church leaders hope the congregation will embrace the changes.

“We’re never probably going to be able to go completely back to what things were before,” Portrais said. “But I do think it’s a challenge for us as human beings to crave social interaction to adapt and overcome and figure out how to satisfy that urge from 6 feet to 10 feet."

Not every church is launching outdoor services this weekend.

Many church leaders told WBTV they are sticking to streaming services until the governor gives the OK for inside worship.

So before you drive to your church on Sunday, make sure you check out how services are being held.

A group of North Carolina church leaders filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Gov. Cooper, saying the executive order restricting inside services is violating their freedom of religion right.

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