CLEVELAND — The COVID-19 pandemic has forced multiple businesses to rethink their structure, and churches are no different.
“This too shall pass," said Dr. R.A. Vernon, founder and senior pastor of The Word Church.
But until then, churches around Northeast Ohio are doing their part to ensure their members stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s no playbook for reopening a church during a pandemic. At least I couldn’t find one," lead pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church Jeff Smith said.
At St. Paul in Westlake, they're opting for more of a hybrid model: online services combined with in-person worship.
Everyone is required to wear masks, they are singing fewer songs and social distancing in the church is required by seating at every other pew.
Under normal circumstances, they can hold about 350 people, but they're limiting capacity to about 100 and they're even using a ticketing service to get a ballpark of how many people they can expect.
“We wanted to see how many people we could expect to return, and about a third of people said they’d plan to return, about two-thirds said they’d continue to worship online. So that helped us figure out how many services we would need and what capacity we would set it at," Smith said.
At the Word Church in Warrensville Heights, their pantry has never closed and they're still making sure members of their church are fed and clothed. They are even helping with COVID-19 testing.
"In the midst of a pandemic, the church has to be the church. So as a matter of fact, this is a time for the church to shine, not hide. So no, do I think it's critical that we have in-person worship with thousands of people? No, we can live without that. What we can't live without is helping people," Vernon said.
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