FRANKFORT – (KT)  Churches planning to resume in-person worship services on May 20 will have “a lot of thresholds to meet,” said Gov. Andy Beshear, and asked for patience if church leaders need a little more time “to make it safe.”

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” Beshear said on Friday, referring to reopening businesses and houses of worship across Kentucky. “Please do not pressure. If an organization or house of worship won’t be ready or made the choice to do drive-in worship a while longer, let’s support them.”

Churches will be expected to meet the same Healthy at Work minimum requirements expected of businesses along with several additional requirements, like limiting in-person attendance to 33% of the building’s occupancy and maintaining a six-foot radius between household units in the sanctuary. Churches will be required to limit the number of people in common areas, such as lobbies and foyers.

Small groups, Sunday school, and nurseries will have to wait until June 15 to open and should follow government requirements posted for childcare services.

Other requirements churches should follow include:

•  Should ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that clergy, staff employees, volunteers, and congregants wear coverings (e.g., cloth mask or bandana) over their mouths and noses while attending services.

• Only one person in bathrooms at a time and thorough sanitization after each use

• Refrain from the practice of handshaking, handholding, hugging

• Provide hand sanitizer, handwashing facilities, and tissues

• No communal food or beverages

• Avoid congregational or choir singing during services

The requirements also call on churches to consider taking congregants’ temperatures and asking about signs of illness before admitting them into the place of worship.

Beshear said out of all the industries and organizations his team has worked with during the coronavirus response, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is “one of the best collaborations we have had to date.” KBC, along with the Kentucky Council on Churches, has been instrumental in providing assistance, support, and feedback on the governor’s requirements.

“I want to credit these groups. They wanted there to be requirements. They didn’t want an atmosphere that was not safe. They wanted to ensure that it’s safe,” Beshear said.

“I am thankful for the hard work of Gov. Beshear and his team of advisors, as well as their outreach to faith leaders in working through the details of this plan,” said KBC Executive Director Todd Gray. “While Kentucky Baptists are eager to return to in-person worship, they only want to do so in a safe and healthy manner. I believe they will find this plan reasonable, doable, and in the best interests of the health of their congregations.”

In the Healthy at Home document Requirements for Places of Worship, churches should, to the greatest extent practicable, continue to conduct alternative services, including teleservices, radio broadcasts, and drive-in services. But if churches choose to reopen, Beshear said church leaders should encourage symptomatic persons to stay at home.

“Listen to your faith leader. If they tell you that they are not ready and it’s not safe, then you should wait,” Beshear said.

(By Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today)

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