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Area churches discuss opening doors under new guidelines

The Bowen Baptist Association recently met with a group of area pastors to discuss the reopening of church doors, following recommendations from Governor Brian Kemp and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.

Director of Missions, Tim VanLandingham said the Bowen Baptist Association has taken the virus very seriously and understands the concerns many church members have about returning.

VanLandingham had a nurse come in and teach about the virus and explain how easily it can be spread, which is when online church and Facebook streaming was implemented. Since then, churches have started easing back into services and going to great precautions to protect their members.

Churches have been instructed to deep clean the entire church. It was recommended they shampoo carpets; sanitize the pews, bathrooms, doorknobs, light switches and microphones.

In addition, churches have been encouraged to conduct a no-contact service. They suggest not handing out bulletins, and greet people with only a smile. Pastors, volunteers and greeters have been told to not give handshakes or hugs to others.

During the worship service, people from the same household can sit together, but other groups are asked to spread out. Churches will no longer be passing a plate or bowl for communion, but are trying to change the way it is offered. They are also no longer passing a plate for offerings, but are encouraging people to donate online.

VanLandingham said tithe giving has been off since the start of the pandemic. While some churches have a buildup of funds in their reserves to use; others are struggling.

“Churches have been finding innovative ways for people to give, such as through Paypal or phone apps, but part of our walk as a member of the church is to give tithe,” VanLandingham said.

Despite these changes, pastors are encouraged to make the most of the first Sunday back and celebrate the return. The Mission Board is hopeful that members will praise the Lord and provide their testimony, while pastors give sermons on embracing the life changes God has revealed during this time of quarantine.

During the sermon, members will be recommended to not use the restroom unless of an emergency. In the event it is an emergency, churches will have a bathroom monitor who ensures hands are being washed and social distancing is being followed.

While children are encouraged to attend church with their parents, it has been suggested churches not open up their preschool or childcare on the first Sunday back. If churches choose to still open up their childcare, the recommendation is a five-child limit, where leaders are limited to those 65- years old and younger.

The same action is being called for Sunday school and small group meetings. Churches are being encouraged to only go to the worship services, while teachers of Sunday school and small groups meet virtually or still continue to contact participants over the phone.

Finally, pastors are asked to dismiss members in an orderly way that ensures there is still social distancing.

VanLandingham knows that people are still concerned and it will be months before some members consider returning, but he is proud of the way area pastors have stepped up.

“The pastors are doing a phenomenal job easing back into services and practicing guidelines,” he said. “They are continuing to hold virtual services, while trying to provide a sense of normality for those who are ready for traditional services.”

The Bowen Baptist Association has released of list of area Baptist Churches that includes when each church will return to the sanctuary and what services will be provided.

They are hopeful that every member will be accommodated with both virtual and traditional services being offered now.