(07/26/20)– Back in March, Governor John Bel Edwards banned gatherings of 10 people or more, this included churches. Since then, churches have been able to re-open but were encouraged to have safety measures in place. However, as COVID-19 numbers began to rise again in June, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church voluntarily closed the doors to keep everyone safe.
“The Bishop had still given us permission to gather and worship. At first, it was inside or outside then he moved it to outside only. Which of course isn’t a realistic solution in Louisiana,” said Whit Stodghill, Priest in charge at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.
Sunday, the church reopened and held its first Sunday worship service. Though cases in Ouachita Parish are still rising, Father Whit says every member’s safety is important.
“From the beginning, from the direction of our bishop, we’ve been watching out for the most vulnerable people in our congregation and that’s the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. So gathering around as a church community we want to protect them,” said Stodghill.
Some of those safety measures include praying over communion at the church and then delivering it to members’ homes. He also says there is limited seating, maks are required, no singing, and social distancing is in effect.
“We could find out Monday that we are going back to virtual worship. What we are trying to do is follow the best guidelines with the state and the best guidelines of the CDC,” said Stodghill.
Father Whit says he doesn’t know what the future holds with COVID cases on the climb, but he says the church will continue to worship. Church officials say during this pandemic they have been able to get creative on zoom, like having virtual coffee hours on Saturdays. He also says they have been able to meet with other local churches online, which he hopes continues past the pandemic.