While Mayor Hal Marx recently gave permission for Petal churches to re-open at their discretion beginning May 10, at least a couple pastors will still take a little time to make that decision.
Marx made the announcement on Thursday, following Reeves’s decision to allow dining rooms at restaurants that were forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic to re-open at half capacity.
“Somebody had asked the governor about churches (on Wednesday), and I believe the answer was along the lines of, he never shut any churches down and he didn’t believe he had the power to shut churches down,” Marx said. “He was going to leave that decision up to the churches.
“So in our first executive order, when we started trying to limit social gatherings, I included churches, as far as limiting the number of people that could be inside at one time to 10 or fewer. So what I’m going to do is just go by what the governor said, and if restaurants can be open at 50 percent capacity, I don’t see why churches can’t do that.”
Brad Eubank, pastor of Petal First Baptist Church, said his church will not open this coming Sunday, but staff will meet next week to determine a plan on how to return.
“We’ve been in an assessment phase kind of the last two weeks of where our church family is, and what their response is to coming back, and when we come back what they’re hoping to see,” he said. “So we feel like we don’t have enough time to make any preparations to let people return faithfully, orderly and in a way that’s safe for our church family.
“So we’re going to do online services this Sunday, and we’ll have a plan in place by next week that will give us the plan of when we’ll actually be back on our campus. We haven’t really had time to process it completely yet, but so far, that’s our intention at this point.”
Ben Skipper, pastor at Carterville Baptist Church, said he will take a little time to make a plan on how to carefully re-open when the time is right.
“There’s a little complexity involved in bringing in a church of any size back under the expectations of social distancing,” he said. “And so we’re excited about the opportunity, and we’re praying how to prepare to care for our people properly.”
Marx is encouraging pastors who wish to open their churches to limit numbers at services to allow social distancing, but specific details regarding that will be left up to the individual churches.
“Try not to have everyone packed in shoulder-to-shoulder in the pews so that they can spread out,” he said. “Maybe they can have two services, or however many they have to have, but I’ll leave that to the churches as to how they can make it happen.
“I just wanted them to know that the City of Petal is not going to restrict them from having their worship service. If they want to have their worship service inside, then that’s going to be okay with us.”