Pelham churches making arrangements for in-person worship

By BRIANA H. WILSON | Special to the Reporter

PELHAM – With loosening COVID-19 restrictions, area churches are busy ironing out plans to return to in-person worship services in the coming weeks.

Two Pelham churches, RiverPoint Church and First Baptist Church of Pelham, recently announced dates for their first in-person services in roughly two months. RiverPoint is set to welcome its congregation back on May 31 at 10:30 a.m., while FBC Pelham will reopen its doors to the public on June 7 with services at 8:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.

The time of FBC Pelham’s first worship service has been changed from 9:15 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. to give volunteers enough time to properly clean the church between the first and second service.

RiverPoint Lead Pastor Bobby Lewis said in a video posted on the church’s Facebook page that he is “beyond ready” to get back to worshipping together. Lewis said returning to in-person services on May 31 gives the church time to get needed supplies and to make a few changes to help ensure the safety of all who attend the church.

Ahead of the May 31 service, a time of prayer will be held on Saturday, May 30, at 8:30 a.m.

The church has been and will continue to be sanitized, Lewis said. The church will try to eliminate the need to touch things as much as possible. For example, certain doors will be left open and the offering bags will not be passed around.

Some changes have been made to the layout of the sanctuary to create some additional square footage to allow people to spread out more, and an overflow has been created in case the sanctuary reaches its safe capacity.

Churchgoers are asked to refrain from hugging and shaking hands, and instead to “love one another from a little bit of a distance.”

Attendees are welcomed to wear face masks but they are not mandatory. The church will have masks and hand sanitizer available. The nursery and kids church will not resume in-person just yet. Kids church will continue to take place online.

“I know everyone has a different opinion about what the whole social distancing thing needs to be, but we’re going to respect everyone’s opinion as we phase back into regular worship services,” Lewis said. “I want you to be as comfortable as possible and feel as safe as possible when you return. We know that some of you may feel the need to wait another week or so beyond the 31st, and listen, that’s perfectly fine. Return when you’re comfortable. Just don’t let the enemy use this to keep you away from God’s house any longer than necessary.

“Others of you have health concerns or health-related issues that would cause you to need to have to wait. You know your health better than anyone else, and if you need to not return right now, by all means, wait. Stay at home, continue to worship with us via livestream until you feel it’s safe for you to return.”

FBC Pelham Associate Pastor Donnie Sisk said the church has developed a plan that will hopefully allow church members to worship together safely. The church has created five entry ways into the church and each entrance leads to a certain sitting area. Churchgoers will be seated on every other pew to create distance between attendees. Families sitting on the same row will be asked leave space between them.

Sisk said a team of volunteers will assist with making sure certain safety precautions are taken during each church service. Volunteers will hold doors open and will clean the church in between the two services. As an extra precaution, fog machines will release an antibacterial mist into the air to disinfect the church.

“Every Sunday we will take the temperature of all volunteers to make sure no one is running a fever,” Sisk said. “We’ve created entry and exit strategies; certain parts of the church have been closed off and we’re asking all families to sit together on one row.”

The church nursery and children’s church will not resume in-person activities.

“Things will definitely be different, but we’re hoping that by August we can get back to how it was,” Sisk said. “In the meantime, we will continue to simulcast church services.”

For update on other churches, check with the church to see their plans.