Ky. Baptist churches weigh virus protocols with members returning

Woodburn Baptist Church in Bowling Green.

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (KT) - As the coronavirus seemingly loosens its grip, Kentucky Baptists are beginning to show up at church again.

Depending on the church’s stance, they are met with varying degrees of COVID-19 protocols. From all masks to no masks, to certain area for masks, there seems to be no universal answer.

In many cases, churches are trying to reflect their communities. Woodburn Baptist Church in rural Warren County is taking that route.

“We have been really strict but also trying to stay in step with our community,” said Tim Harris, the senior pastor at Woodburn Baptist. “We dropped the temperature check at doors because the only place people were getting their temperatures checked was here.”

Like most churches, Woodburn followed strict protocols early in the pandemic but has loosened restrictions since the vaccine. They have stopped distance seating and masks are optional, he said.

Woodburn has looked to the deacon body to make those decisions. Harris said that group includes doctors, pharmacists and farmers among others. “Our deacons have made the decisions and led us very, very well,” he said. “From the very beginning, there was a real diversity of opinion of what we should do and how strict we should be.”

Harris was grateful the decision-making didn’t fall on him or even his staff because of the diversity of the membership. They have done the typical protocols by roping off pews to socially distance, wearing masks and progressed to a spectrum of seating where one entire section was side-by-side and another section was distanced.

“With distance seating, we never could get away from ushers telling you where to sit,” he said.

Even with the larger number of people vaccinated and the coronavirus cases dropping, some continue to approach returning to church with caution. Woodburn still disinfects after every service.

“We’re still trying to take good care of people,” Harris said. “The majority are fully vaccinated and very comfortable (back in church). We are sort of blessed. We haven’t had any exposure (through church) this whole time. We’ve never had anyone sick at church or been at church to spread to others. We’ve never had any glitches. I know other churches have.”

Like many Kentucky Baptist churches, Woodburn is trying to find the proper balance for members.

“We didn’t want to seem way too careless or way too careful,” he said. “We’re taking enough precautions so people know we care but not so obsessive to make it difficult.”

Regardless, he said, there are awkward moments when it comes to greeting people with a handshake, a hug or an elbow touch. “People are asking permission and saying ‘I’m fully vaccinated.’ People are really careful. We are welcoming folks pretty freely now and most of what I hear is positive.”

Woodburn and many other Kentucky Baptist churches are happy to be worshiping in person again after a difficult year filled with many online church services.

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