As some states begin the process of reopening, churches prepare to resume their in-person gatherings with compassion and caution.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled plans to reopen many businesses including church services with guidelines of social distancing this week.
Church leaders in Georgia have shown their eagerness to see their congregations but they are aware of the importance of acknowledging the continual threat of COVID-19 infection. They are carefully searching for a balance between courage and caution to transit back to in person gatherings.
Michael Lewis, pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. told Baptist Press that his team is cautiously planning to reopen as early as May 10, though the date is tentative and dependent on progress as measured by the official guidelines for reopening set out by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
"We're going to adhere very strictly to the CDC guidelines," Lewis said, noting that the May 10 target date could be postponed if necessary.
When Marietta, one of Atlanta's northern suburb enters Phase 2 of the COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reopening states, the 700 attendant church plans to conduct two worship-only services.
Micah Fries, Pastor of Brainerd Baptist in Chattanooga, Tenn., wants an incremental approach.
"We anticipate that reopening will not be instantaneous," Fries said to the media, "but rather more like a slow return over a period of months."
As Brainerd Baptist Church has two locations for Sunday gatherings in different states -main campus in Chattanooga with about 1,900 in attendance and a second campus with about 300 attendance in Rossville, Ga., they must consider two different guidelines and timeliness issued by each state.
"We believe it will be lengthy and, at times, unknown," Fries said. "We will take it slowly and show a lot of grace."
Some pastors would like to implement online services together which becomes now familiar to congregation during the pandemic.
Valdosta's Morningside Baptist, GA., which averages about 350 in attendance, would consider to begin their resumed services with the now familiar drive-in service, where members of the congregation would remain in cars. They will also start to conduct their services two times to keep social distancing.
"It may be that they feel more comfortable [with a drive-in service]," Robertson said. "As you decide what you will do, you want your people to be happy and not thinking that they are taking a risk even if you had multiple services."
"I'm very confident in our pastors' and our elders' ability to find that balance," Jason Dee, pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Atlanta said to the news. "One of the reasons is they know their flock. They'll know where they probably need some nudging and where some may need some warning."