Prince George’s County, Maryland, has a number of churches, mosques and synagogues that bring in large numbers of worshippers each week.
And while the county moves carefully toward further easing of the COVID-19 restrictions that were imposed starting in mid-March, one megachurch considers what it would take to open its doors.
Pastor John Jenkins said the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Landover has a capacity of 4,000. On any given Sunday, 11,000 congregants attend services there.
Members come from all over the region.
“Some people come from as far as Richmond, Virginia,” to attend services, Jenkins said.
Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the church has moved services and the many community outreach and ministry programs online.
“There’s a level of love and care and concern for each other,” he said of his congregation.
While the church has worked to fill in the gaps from during the closure, Jenkins said, “We miss having the opportunity to see each other and hug each other” and to make sure that everyone’s doing fine.
Health guidelines from local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that people maintain a distance of 6 feet between each other.
Prince George’s County, which has seen the state’s highest coronavirus rate with 16,523 cases and 578 confirmed deaths, has held off on moving to Phase Two of the plan to reopen.
That means churches are still restricted to holding in-person services of no more than 10 people at a time.
Even if the county declares that houses of worship could open at 50% capacity, Jenkins said, “There’s no way I could open it up for 50% of our people. I don’t even know how I would make that decision, what 50% would come in?”
Once he does make the determination that it’s safe to open the church up for in-person services, Jenkins said the building would have to be disinfected and cleaned before each service — he said there’s a plan drawn up to address COVID-19 prevention.
But for now, Jenkins said, “We’re not going to open up until we feel it’s safe for people to come. We’re not going to take any risks with it. That’s the bottom line.”
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