Places of worship were among the first to close their doors to the public, following the increase of the coronavirus cases in mid-March. Locally and nationwide, many churches turned to technology and social media to bring their worship services to believers.
On April 27, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a joint guidance on religious services and places of worship, to guard the health and safety of those attending while serving their respective communities of faith.
Some churches remain uncertain of when they will welcome gatherings again, while others plan to reopen soon.
This past Sunday, May 10, Cowboy Fellowship in Jourdanton opened its doors to the public during their 8:30 a.m. service.
“The crowd was a lot smaller, which we kind of expected,” said Pastor Pete Pawelek. “There was plenty of room for everybody to social distance. We had a great time and it was great worshipping together.”
This coming Sunday, May 17, Cowboy Fellowship will once again welcome church attendees to worship at 8:30 a.m. in person, while following CDC and State of Texas regulations. The 10:45 a.m. service will be online only.
Also on Sunday, May 17, Pastor Juan Florez of Hosanna Baptist Church invites the public to their outdoor, drive-in worship service at 11 a.m. The church is located at 237 School Dr. in Poteet.
Hosanna Baptist has been live streaming services since the quarantine began. Church staff will see how many people attend this next service before deciding on what to do for the coming weeks.
First Baptist Church of Jourdanton plans to reopen their church on Sunday, May 24, for worship service only. There will not be Sunday School. They will continue to stream their worship service live on Facebook.
On Monday, May 11, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of the Archdiocese of San Antonio announced that public Masses have been reinstated.
Beginning May 19, St. Andrew Catholic Church in Pleasanton will hold their weekday Masses each day at 7 p.m. Their first weekend Masses will begin on May 23 and 24.
For those not comfortable attending public Mass, the Archbishop’s dispensation is still in effect. Children under 5 should not attend and it is suggested that the elderly with underlying conditions not attend.
If you have any symptoms or are sick, please stay home and watch St. Andrew’s live stream on Facebook. Masks are required for everyone attending and social distancing will be in effect. Only one entrance to the church will be open. At St. Andrew the entrance will be through the west side double-doors.
St. Andrew allows a maximum of 125 people per Mass and you must call the parish at 830-560- 3356 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday to reserve your place for Mass. They will be doing this each week. They will live stream the Sunday 10:30 a.m. Mass on Facebook each week for those who cannot attend in person.
St. Andrew Mass schedule is Saturday at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 7 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12 noon (bilingual) and 5 p.m.
Mass schedule for Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Campbellton is Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Poteet will reopen its doors for in-person service Saturday, May 23 at 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 24 at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and 12 noon.
Currently, St. Matthew Catholic Church in Jourdanton and St. Ignatius in Christine church staff are discussing when they will reopen for public Mass. They hope to have details by next week.
More on Abbott’s guidance
It states that houses of worship should conduct as many activities as possible remotely and should follow the minimum health protocols listed in these guidelines when providing services in person.
Health protocols for serving church attendees include encouraging the at-risk population to watch or participate in the service remotely and designating an area inside the facility reserved for the at-risk population, or offer a service for at-risk population attendees only.
There should also be proper spacing between attendees. Keep at least two empty seats (or six feet separation) between parties in any row, except as follows: 1.) Two or more members of the same household can sit adjacent to one another, with two seats (or six feet separation) empty on either side; 2.) Two individuals who are not members of the same household, but who are attending together can sit adjacent to one another, with two seats (or six feet separation) empty on either side.
Also alternate rows between attendees, so that every other row is left empty.
Protocols for employees and volunteers are also outlined such as training them in cleaning and disinfection and sending home volunteers with signs of possible COVID-19 (chills, cough, etc.).
Also listed in the guidelines is to have employees or volunteers maintain at least six feet separation from other individuals. If this is not feasible, other measures including face covering, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, cleanliness and sanitation should be rigorously practiced.
Consistent with the actions taken by many churches, congregations and places of worship across the state, consider having employees, volunteers and attendees wear cloth face coverings (over the nose and mouth). If available, they should consider wearing non-medical grade face masks.