JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. — For many churches this weekend, it was the first time gathering in months. For others, they’ve made the hard decision to keep services online.
With an open door and heart, Prairie View Family Church in Olathe resumed in person services.
“It was such a joy to see the people that you love and you, you invest your time in and they invest their time into you and just the relationships that we have at this church,” lead pastor Jerry Hickey said.
Around 60 people attend the church on Sundays. This week many stayed home, and were out of town for the holiday. Their first week back had about 25 parishioners. The church’s smaller size allowed them to set in place guidelines for social distancing.
“We felt like that it was something that, that, that we could attain and we’re doing every everything that we can to take those precautionary steps,” Hickey said.
The church spread out its seating to six feet between each row. Families are asked to sit together and keep three seats between. Masks are not required, but you are allowed to wear one if it makes you feel more comfortable. When service is over each row is excused one by one to avoid bumping into each other.
Fellowship is no longer held inside the building. If people would like to visit the church board asks them to do so outside the building and maintain social distance. The water fountains are not available, but bottled water is provided. Hickey says they disinfect all the surfaces before and after service.
While precautions like this can be taken at Prairie View, it’s much more difficult for larger congregations like the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. Senior Pastor Adam Hamilton says they made the decision to stay online. They hope to reopen for in person worship around July, but it could be longer.
“I want to make sure that when we bring people back, that we’re not putting people at risk, we know that our most committed people would show up and Something happened on one of them, because we made the call to have service. You know, I just I would feel a great deal of grief about that,” Hamilton said.
The church could have more than 2,000 people at their 11 o’clock service on an average Sunday. Hamilton says while smaller congregations like Prairie View can do more to distance they want to make sure when they come back everyone can experience service together.
Hamilton says he’s concerned if they opened service they would have to limit the amount of people in their building and some would be able to attend while others wouldn’t. He says with their online services it allows them to reach their members, and visitors equally. He says three longtime members of the church have died of COVID-19, and he doesn’t want to see anyone get hurt from attending one of their services.
Their weekly service is available online, and Hamilton says it’s been successful for them. Not only are their members logging on and experiencing church online each week, but people who are struggling during this time are using their streams as a way towards Christ.
“We’ve had more people in worship. than we’ve ever had before last Sunday, I mean, it was just huge numbers and, and that’s exciting,” Hamilton said. “There’s people who are joining us who were not going to church anywhere and who feel like, gosh, you know, I’m looking for hope right now I’m looking for something that that is helping me cope with the feelings that I’ve got going on.”
Both pastors say the church is more about it’s people than it’s walls.
“Let’s support each other and love each other, and through the grace of God make it through this time together,” Hickey said.
Both Prairie View and Church of the Resurrection are continuing with fellowship and bible studies mostly online for now.