Charlotte pastor talks about decision to bring portion of congregation back for in-person services

Church begins easing restrictions 1 year into pandemic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The pastor of a northwest Charlotte church said he plans to bring members of his congregation together for the first time since December this Sunday,

Jack Homesley, the pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, said December 13, 2020 is the last time he and a portion of his congregation met for an in-person service. Throughout the pandemic Homesley has been holding virtual prayer meetings for members of his congregation. The pastor has been using a computer, camera, and social media to livestream sermons and prayer services, but he prefers in-person worship.

“I’m a people person and I just love talking with people and seeing their smiles or their interactions and talking to a camera is much more difficult,” said Homesley.

He said that while it has been difficult being away from his congregation, it hasn’t been the most challenging part of the pandemic for him.

“The hardest part during this pandemic has been watching people that I love die - people that you would expect to be here right now just talking like we are, and they’re gone,” said Homesley.

Homesley said several members of his congregation have contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic. He said most of them have been fine, but three people have died as a result of contracting the coronavirus.

He said he doesn’t believe any of those church members caught COVID-19 at the church.

Homesley explained that there was period during the pandemic when he was allowing small, socially distanced gatherings, but he shut it all down again in December as health officials warned of surging case numbers during the holidays. The church has remained closed to in-person services since that point.

“I just thank God we saw it coming – the rise in cases during Christmas, and it did, it spiked,” said Homesley.

The pastor said he’s been intently watching the state’s improving COVID metrics, and has consulted other members of the church about reopening for in-person worship. Sanitizer dispensers are now stationed in the church lobby, signs are posted on the doors that encourage mask-wearing, and chairs have been spaced out in the sanctuary.

“I have to stand before the lord and I worry about his opinion more than anybody else and give an account for taking care of his sheep so that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Homesley.

He said the sanctuary has space for around 420 churchgoers, but only 130 chairs will be available this Sunday.

Homesley said he got his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and encourages others to do the same as long as they don’t have a serious conviction about getting the shot.

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