Triad churches prepare to hold outdoor services


GREENSBORO, N.C. — How are you worshiping on Sunday? Will you be tuning into church service online, or will you be venturing to hear your sermon in the great outdoors?

Phase One of Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan to reopen North Carolina begins Friday afternoon. It allows worship services to be held again, as long as they’re outside.

On Sunday, the now-empty parking lot at the Providence Church on Lake Brandt Road will be filled with people.

“I think upwards of 100,” Pastor Arie van Eyk said. “Live streamed is not the same as being together.”

He has it all figured out. The congregation will use one side of the parking lot and have families sit on blankets and lawn chairs, all coming together as a church once again.

They’re taking advantage of Cooper’s reopening plan and are making accommodations to keep everyone safe, while worshiping outside.

“We’ll have all of the family groups be together. They’ll be about six to eight feet away from all of the other family groups,” van Eyk said.

His pulpit will be moved outside. van Eyk also plans on sending the prayer material out to everyone electronically, to prevent people from sharing the same documents.

He says it’s a big step for his community, helping them tap into their faith during this difficult time.

“We’re so thankful we get to worship together as a whole congregation for the first time in two months,” van Eyk said. “It’s here at worship services that we pray for our leaders. We pray for this world. We pray for our governor and our mayor and we pray for authorities.”

But at the Bethel A.M.E church this Sunday, Rev. Dr. Clay Barrow will take his place at the pulpit, with a ring light and camera again.

“We would rather err on the side of safety,” he said.

Barrow says his congregants are mainly over the age of 60 and everyone is concerned.

“35 percent of those who have been identified by race, who have died because of COVID-19, are African-American,” he said. “So to take care of our congregation, we think it would be best to remain closed. We’re still gathering virtually in the days to come.”

Barrow explains that while others may have the ability to congregate outside, his church does not have the outdoor space for 346 people to be socially distanced.

They’re just not ready to take that next step.

“It’s not conducive in terms of logistics, but also in talking with the congregants,” Barrow said. “They’re not comfortable gathering, even if it’s in the parking lot.”

Barrow says they may wait until Phase Two of the plan before they welcome people back.

He wants to see a dramatic decrease in the number of coronavirus cases to assure his community it’s OK to come together again.

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