HOUSTON – Phase 1 of Governor Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas begins Friday. Part of it expands occupancy for places of worship, allowing many to reopen their doors for service so long as they adhere to social distancing and sanitary guidelines.
While some congregations spent Wednesday evaluating safety plans with the intent of resuming service, others said their doors won’t reopen so soon. They said the timing doesn’t seem right, and preferred to wait until healthcare professionals no longer advise congregants be spaced six feet apart from one another.
That means the current “new normal” for some will resume: service will take place via live stream online.
Here is what some of the churches and places of worship in the Houston area are saying:
Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston announced Wednesday that it will resume normal activities in phases. The Archdiocese has given its parishes the right to decide whether to resume Mass in churches. If they do, they must do so in compliance with Gov. Abbott’s requirements.
- 25% capacity threshold in each church
- Congregants must wear masks
- Commonly used surfaces must be sanitized between each service
“Everything has to be sanitized and cleaned before each service and each mass and that takes a group that’s going to help pastor do some of the work,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo Friday.
Senior citizens over 65 and those who may be sick or have a compromised immune system are asked to continue to worship by way of online streaming.
“I would prefer that anyone who is in any group that is vulnerable would stay home at this time,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is comprised of 1.7 million parishes, spanning ten counties throughout Southeast Texas. Each parish is different: some are large, some are small.
“There is a logistical complication in all of this, and rightfully so,” Cardinal DiNardo said, adding he didn’t think it was wise for him to decide on behalf of parishes with their own list of concerns.
“We had to give pastors discretion. Some will be ready more easily and more early, depending on the group – we’re calling it the pandemic group that works with the pastor to set things up, make sure there is a sufficient amount of cleaning materials around,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
Many parishes will continue to stream Mass online, allowing parishioners to decided for themselves whether they want to attend Mass in person.
“There is no obligation for our people to come to Sunday Mass as we normally have it. That is suspended while this pandemic is still, I think, partially raging and still a source of great concern, even in the State of Texas,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
The Community of Faith Church
“We’re going to continue our streaming and our production of our broadcasts and keeping our people safe,” said Bishop James Dixon, pastor of The Community of Faith Church in northwest Houston.
Dixon said he doesn’t think gathering in churches at the moment is safe, even with the governor’s guidelines.
“As a pastor, I’m a shepherd. I’ve got a shepherd’s heart. I cannot stand the risk of having someone bring the disease here, neither catching that disease here,” Dixon said.
St. Luke’s United Methodist Church
Dr. Tom Pace, senior pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in River Oaks, shared a video response on the church’s Facebook page.
“We’ve made a decision not to gather the congregation for live worship until the medical professionals tell is that we no longer have to maintain the six-foot social distancing rule,” he said, adding that service would continue online.
Among some of the ways his congregants can worship this weekend, Pace said they will have drive-thru worship and a Facebook live service.
The Church Without Walls
A representative for The Church Without Walls said the same, adding the church’s congregation is too large to accommodate social distancing and limited seating. Live streaming will continue for now.
Lakewood Church won’t reopen this weekend, either. A spokesperson told KPRC 2 that church leaders are working with experts to establish the safest plan to reopen.
Worship will continue online and you can livestream the Lakewood Church services here.
Chabad of Texas
Chabad of Texas released a statement Wednesday confirming its 30 facilities statewide will remain closed, at least until after the second phase of the governor’s plan is rolled out May 18.
Second Baptist Church
Second Baptist Church, says it will reopen each of its six locations May 9 for a Mother’s Day service.
See the minimum health protocols set up by the state to be followed by churches and places of worship: