TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Like many things, the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way religious groups gather. Now, things are starting to get back to a new normal.
It was the first full weekend the Tucson Baptist Church allowed members to gather in person. Services are now a little different. For about two months, the church streamed services, bible studies and more online.
“We actually wrote a manual for all our church members to come back,” said Brent Armstrong, Senior Pastor at Tucson Baptist Church.
Temperatures are taken before members can enter the chapel and signs warning people to not come to service if they have temperatures or coughs are on display. Sunday service is held in a smaller chapel with spaces between groups, and people can even reserve their seat online ahead of time. The Lord’s Supper won’t be taken for a few months and will be in pre-packaged serving when it is, according to the church. Masks are optional. Several other measures have also been taken.
“This would have never been our preference not to meet over the past two months,” said Armstrong. “Being back together as a church family is awesome because that’s what a church is about—it’s about the people not the building.”
Services are still streamed, but their main chapel sits empty, but the church says it will be used in a few weeks. The decision to come back was to bring members together again—but Armstrong said church attendance is down about 30 percent, even with nine services a day, and donations have fallen as well.
“Even though there’s no handshaking, no hugs, no anything like that, but just being able to physically see people, to sing together, to read the bible together, it truly has been a wonderful experience being back together again this weekend,” said Armstrong.
Tucson Baptist Church said they held a soft-opening to practice procedures and methods the week before opening up to the rest of the congregation. Calvary Tucson also began holding in person, live services the 16th, according to their website, and CrossRoads Community Church began holding in person services this weekend, according to their Facebook page.
Other churches still have empty parking lots and busy websites. Casas Church in Oro Valley still is not meeting in person yet. In a statement sent to us, the church said, “At Casas we have created a Phased Gathering Plan. It’s not a plan with exact dates, but what we see as a roadmap that will move us toward our new normal. We will continue to gather online and hope to look at gathering in person in the weeks to come. Our driver, and our heart, is to prioritize health and well-being and to do what moves us and our local community forward in love.”
According to their website, Christ Community Church is still streaming services, but not meeting in person.
The Diocese of Tucson is ready to get back to masses in person, but in a drawn-out, phased approach. In an announcement online, the Diocese said Pentecost weekend will be the first time masses can be held in person, with permission from the Bishop. For their full reopening plan, click here.
According to the office of the Governor, places of worship were never formally closed. The state health department did release guidelines for churches and other places of worship to reopen, find them here.