Hampton Roads churches ease COVID-19 restrictions, as restrictions lift

New Beech Grove Baptist worshippers
Posted at 10:12 PM, May 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-31 23:46:03-04

NORFOLK, Va. - With Governor Northam lifting all capacity and social distancing restrictions, churches now have the option to be fully open or continue having social distancing restrictions.

The news about loosening COVID-19 restrictions is lifting the spirits of James Glass, the pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Norfolk.

"We can only stay isolated for so long and I’m just grateful that we can gather together all under one roof again. Last night with the visual mass, we were open at capacity. Before we had to social distance and carefully seat people according to the size of their group," Glass said.

Glass says this is the first time in more than a year that the church is having services at full capacity.

"Now people can come today and sit wherever they want. If they get here early. They can even sit in their favorite pew like they use to," Glass said.

But some churches aren’t lifting their guidelines just yet.

"You don’t want to jerk people and shock them so we just doing it little by little," Willard Maxwell said, the pastor of New Beech Grove Baptist Church in Newport News.

Maxwell says he’s giving members time to get used to the restrictions being lifted before he’ll start having church at full capacity.

"I’ll send out surveys and say how many people want to be inside and how many people want to be outside. It was overwhelmingly more people wanted to be outside but then once the Governor opened it, it’s probably 50/50 now," Maxwell said.

Members at New Beech Grove are still required to wear their masks inside. Chairs are now three feet apart instead of six feet apart. Maxwell says, for now, he’ll continue to give members the option of being inside or watching service from outside.

"We have an LED screen outside. So they see us projected outside. We have speakers out there. Some come inside," Maxwell said.

One member says this is a step to getting back to normal.

"Online is great but coming together in the physical sense is super awesome," Justin Kennedy, a New Beech Grove member, said.

Members who are vaccinated at Holy Trinity do not have to wear a mask. Glass says some protocols will still remain in place.

"We’re still sanitizing our hands before distributing communion. We’re not distributing from the cup. People are asked to refrain from holding hands during the Our Father," Glass said.

Glass says members still have the option of attending service virtually.