Fayetteville church will take things slow, still offer virtual services amid Phase 2 of reopening

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Places of worship across North Carolina are staring down the tough task of finding the appropriate way to reopen their buildings to members.

With the recent federal judge ruling in favor of churches meeting, despite Governor Roy Cooper's executive order, some churches have already begun meeting.

However, Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville is planning to take things a little slower.

Reverend Christoppher Stackhouse said he's lost track of the amount of virtual services he's held in the last few months.

"Only thing that has changed now is COVID is still present, but our patience with it is absent," Stackhouse said.

North Carolina will move into Phase 2 on Friday; Salons, restaurants can reopen but gyms must stay closed

Before the pandemic, more than 4,500 members filled the church on a weekly basis, many of them senior citizens.

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"There is still a large contingency of our congregation that falls within that danger zone for COVID-19," Stackhouse said.

This is why the reverend is choosing to stick with Governor Roy Cooper's recommendations to open during Phase 2, which is set to begin on Friday.

"Our intentions to open back up is really contingent on how things are going out there".
Stackhouse sees the next few weeks as a trial and error process. They'll look at different approaches, including having a soft opening and offering somewhere between seven to eight services on Sunday to help keep the capacity down.

The church will look to frequently sanitize surfaces, put away bibles and hymn books and even offer a service designated to his older members.

Along with enforcing social distancing, Stackhouse told ABC11 they will encourage all members to wear masks.

"We will provide masks, we will provide gloves, we will provide everything that we possibly can to keep this environment safe and to keep people feeling comfortable being back in this space," Stackhouse said.

If all goes well, Stackhouse hopes to open his doors to his members in the next two weeks.
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