Ky. Baptist churches approach reopening with degree of caution

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky Baptist churches are looking forward to meeting together again, but they are doing so with much caution and others are even taking a wait-and-see approach.


It’s going to be a whole new ballgame.


Churches have the green light from Gov. Andy Beshear to reopen their doors to in-person services on May 20, although most won’t start until May 24, the following Sunday.


“We are trying to basically follow the governor’s instruction on how to be safe and how to provide a sanitized atmosphere in some sense of the word,” said Charles Frazier, the pastor of Zion’s Cause Baptist Church in Benton.


Frazier said they will take the temperature of everyone who comes to church on Sunday, May 24, and also encourage everyone to wear a mask. They are using the no-touch thermometers and gloved door greeters will be opening and closing for those coming into the building, Frazier said.


The church is planning 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. services to keep the numbers down. “After each service, we will sanitize the sanctuary,” he said.


They will wipe down the pews after each service. He is also offering a special service in their chapel for those senior adults who have taken every precaution. He says it will be an area where no other services have taken place that day.


Frazier said they will tape off every other pew and use projectors, so no one has to handle hymn books or even read scripture from the community Bibles.


“Everything will be on the projectors,” he said.


One thing that won’t change, the gospel will be preached. Frazier said he is looking forward to speaking to church members instead of air.


“We’re looking at about a 50 percent return,” he said. “Some saints said, ‘We’re just not coming back, we’ll see how it goes. You will not see us. I’ve had 50-, 40- and 30-year-olds telling me the same thing. They said they will catch us online. We’re OK with that.”


Jeff Carlisle, the senior pastor of Oakland Baptist Church in Warren County, said his church may not be meeting for in-person services until June. That comes from the vast majority of members who completed a church survey.


“The strong majority of our people really feel like we should wait until June,” he said. “They’re not chomping at the bit. They’d rather meet in June, which I find interesting. We have a very strong family community church. They’re saying, ‘We’d really rather wait.’ I’m trying to ponder what that looks like.”


The church has been doing a lot of online services and other activities, including having soloists sing from their living rooms, others give testimonies and then singing a song that matches it, along with the regular Sunday messages on YouTube and Facebook. The pastors take turns leading Bible studies during the week, he said. “We have about five digital formatted things we do every week.”


Carlisle said they would keep the digital service a priority and it launches at 10:30 a.m. “That will be our prime service,” he said. “The second service will be at a different time.”


The pastor said the church has a member who's helping with social media services.


Carlisle said he’s not sure what the church will look like when they are able to return because of its personality.


“Our church is very personable,” he said. “They’re not going to be happy at all” with having to abide by the social distancing guidelines.


The survey that was sent to 350 members and had nearly 200 responses showed more than 70 percent were in favor of waiting.


“I was more surprised by that than the coronavirus,” Carlisle said.


He said from a positive side, the coronavirus allows for some experimenting of services and how they do services. “We have a huge softball population. During travel ball, we lose a good 20 percent of our church. Maybe we could start another service now at a time when everybody could come?


“Now, more than ever, we have permission to fail. We have to be smart about it but we can try whatever options that work best for us.”


For now, though, Oakland Baptist will be taking a wait-and-see approach to the return of in-person church.

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