Church leaders preparing for outdoor services as restrictions are lifted
FRANKFORD, Del. – Delaware Governor John Carney announced Tuesday that outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people will be allowed starting June 1st. Some local religious congregations are getting ready to take their services outside. “When you love people you you gotta care for them and do what’s best for them,” said HighTide Church’s Pastor Andrew Ehlers.
Pastor Ehlers says say he’s not going to begin large outdoor services right away. The pastor says he’s glad that he and his congregation will be able to meet again, but he’s working out the details of how to carry out the services while keeping everyone safe. “We’ll have a registration. We’ll have people let us know who’s coming, how many people, and we’ll try to block off some area. If you’re going to have a family of five, six feet apart, the next group will come and we’ll have to know how many people we’ll have in that group to kind of make sure people keep their distance, stay healthy,” said Pastor Ehlers.
In a press conference Tuesday, Governor Carney said he thought a lot about the impact allowing gatherings of up to 250 people would have on the state’s religious communities. “We’ve approached religious practices and worship in a way that I think is consistent with its importance as a right for Americans and Delawareans,” said Governor Carney.
Governor Carney says that he’s been consulting with religious leaders about how to safely allow worshipers to gather. “I had religious leaders saying you should reduce the restrictions, and I had others that said you should leave them on now,” said Governor Carney.
Pastor Ehlers says larger gatherings are important for worshipers, especially in the case of celebrating a wedding, or remembering loved ones at funerals. “Funerals have been 10 or less – graveside, outdoors, kind of is what they’ve all been – but going forward, that’ll be nice for families to be able to grieve and not limit who can be able to be a part of it,” said Pastor Ehlers.
Looking ahead, Pastor Ehlers tells 47ABC that he’s going to be cautious when it comes to planning out outdoor church services, and carefully consider the best way to do them. “The last thing we want to do is start meeting too soon and then have an outbreak among our people, and then I think it’s going to be hard to get people to want to come back together,” said Pastor Ehlers.
Certain restrictions apply for these gatherings. Face coverings must be worn, especially if you can’t stay six feet apart from someone. Also, individuals must social distance from anyone outside of their household. Although gatherings over 250 people are not permitted, organizers of large outdoor gatherings and events may apply to host an event by submitting a plan to the division of small business at least seven days prior.