WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — With relaxed restrictions starting Friday, some Wichita Falls churches are prepared to reopen their sanctuary doors come Sunday.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton said people considered at-risk should continue remote worship, there must be 6 feet of separation between households, every other row should be left empty.
With the option to open up, local church leaders are erring on the side of caution in their own ways.
With health top-of-mind, First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls is ready to experiment with in-person services.
Social distancing will be enforced, masks are recommended and seating will be kept to 25%.
“We are excited, but we are extremely cautious,” First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls Senior Pastor Bob McCartney said. “Our 65 and older, anyone with a preexisting health condition or anyone who just feels anxious about being in a gathering at this point, continue to worship with us on our website, on Facebook Live or KFDX at 11 a.m. on Sunday.”
First United Methodist Church of Wichita Falls has decided it’s not quite time to open.
“Partly because our North Texas Confernce of the United Methodist Church are doing the same thing so we’re standing in solidarity with them, we really want to see how things play out in our community,” First United Methodist Church of Wichita Falls Senior Pastor Rev. John McLarty said.
For pastors Kile and Patti Bateman, the COVID-19 pandemic hits close to home as a couple of Evangel Church members defeated the virus.
Now, they’re also waiting to reopen the church.
“We know that people like Jerry and Ricki would be the first ones back and if it’s not safe for them, if there are a lot of trusted advisors that are telling us that’s not the wise thing to do, then out of the love for them we can wait for our comeback,” Evangel Church Lead Pastor Patti Bateman said.
Offering plates haven’t been physically passed around, but church leaders continue looking up.
“This church has stepped up and they’ve continued to do that faithfully, creatively with online giving and mailing other gifts in,” McLarty said.
“We live month to month and we trust in the lord to get our bills paid, we don’t have a big surpluss of funds and as always, the last 20 years we have seen the coin come out of the fishes mouth at just the right time,” Evangel Church Senior Pastor Kile Bateman said.
“We are very blessed at First Baptist Church to have a group of people in our church who are deeply committed to financially supporting the ministry,” McCartney said. “We are not receiving the amount of gifts as all nonprofits are experiencing that, our people want to give but the question is going to be ‘do they have it to give?'”
Financial woes or not, these churches care most about the health of their congregation.