GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - For the first time in weeks, North Carolina worship services can resume inside church walls.
On Saturday, a judge lifted a restriction in North Carolina that allowed indoor worship in North Carolina churches.
This new order will last for 14 days.
The Saturday afternoon ruling effectively ends the part of the Governor’s executive order 138, which required any religious gathering of 10 or more people to take place outdoors only. A group called Return America filed the federal lawsuit Thursday stating that the executive order violated their constitutional rights. Organizers said it had the support of more than 200 religious leaders across the state.
The original state-ordered restriction was to help stop large meetups to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Churches across the area, and the state, continued to have Sunday service indoors. Others had services outdoors, while many more churches still conducted services online.
South Gastonia Church of God opened its building doors for services at 10 a.m. and then again at 6 p.m.
Each person coming through the church’s doors was given these handouts, guidelines on what pastors expect members to do while inside, including keeping a social distance, washing hands, and allow the ushers to open doors.
After each service, church leaders made sure all of the pews are doused in a disinfectant spray.
There were also markings along the pews to remind people to keep some space between each other.
Adrian Franklin, South Gastonia Church of God Associated Pastor, told WBTV that he is happy that the federal judge lifted the restriction because he feels coming to church is no more dangerous than spending time in the grocery store.
Franklin said the church conducted services just about any legally-possible way.
"We’ve had drive-in services, livestream services, and they were effective,” Franklin said. “We were able to keep everybody together online via Zoom, things of this nature, but nothing beats in-person and seeing each other.”
During the two-months that churches were limited to how many people could be on the inside at one time, Franklin said the church never missed a beat.
He added that he was just thrilled to see his congregation again.
“For me, I've been in church since I was a babe, so for me, it was very hard those eight weeks, and honestly, these last eight weeks, it was starting to wear on me as a minister and leader, so I just need to be in church with my church family.”
Franklin said he is not pushing any members to be in church. It's totally optional.
He said that many church members didn’t attend Sunday’s services because they didn’t feel comfortable.