This weekend marks the first time back for in-person worship at churches on Oahu and Kauai since the Coronavirus forced a statewide shutdown. Leaders understand there may be some apprehension coming back to church. For many, the pandemic and strict guidelines have changed service procedures but they’ve also opened a door to new opportunities.
At Sunset Beach Christian Church, there was more legroom as rows were spaced 6-feet apart. Members also trickled in wearing masks. It’s a different sight to see in this new normal.
“We’ve been waiting so long to come back together as a church family and we’re just stoked to gather back together. We are going to do our best to stay within code and take all the necessary precautions,” said Pastor Jacob Pierce.
The North Shore church usually sees about 90 people, but this Sunday only about 20 came. Pastor Pierce says they’ve recommended seniors and other high-risk folks to stay at home.
“We know for a lot of people they’re apprehensive about getting together in groups and we respect that. Because of that, we’ve decided to keep our online service going,” said Pierce.
“I think most pastors and most churches would say they’re actually reaching more people through social media than they were meeting in their church,” said Pastor Klayton Ko of First Assembly of God.
Pastor Ko says a large number of people participated from home online this Sunday. The church on Red Hill saw about 300 members physically come to church this Sunday morning compared to an average of about 12-hundred.
For some churches, their online presence would still be needed because they cannot re-open.
“I would say a large number of churches in our state are using school cafeterias and that’s a problem because even though the churches are able to meet starting today, who knows when the state is going to open up the schools,” said Ko.
The Department of Education says: “The moratorium on permits for the use of school facilities is still in effect and there is no timetable for reopening schools for outside use. The priority remains the safety of students and staff. The current permit system does not have COVID-19 related liability agreements or conditions for the cleaning of facilities after use by outside groups.”
On Maui, in-person church services are expected to be allowed starting this Friday. Over on Hawaii Island, they’re permitted to re-open June 1st.