MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One large Mid-South church is planning to welcome a limited number of its congregation back for the first time since the pandemic hit.
Church leaders at Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven say they’re excited to see some familiar faces as they welcome back their congregation for their first in-person worship this weekend. Church leaders say their priority is the health and safety of their congregation, and they say they’re going above and beyond with precautions to make sure everyone stays healthy.
Brown Missionary Baptist Church has 12,000 members, and during a normal service, between 4,000 and 5,000 people would pack their pews.
For their first weekend of in-person worship since closing for the pandemic, only 250 people per service will be allowed in.
“It is a new norm that we have to get used to,” said Pastor Bartholomew Orr, senior pastor at Brown Missionary Baptist Church.
Every parishioner is required to wear a mask at all times, pass a temperature check, stay 6-feet apart and register online.
Employees are also cleaning the church between every service, which includes using an electrostatic sprayer to kill viruses.
“We are going above and beyond to make it as safe as possible with the understanding that risks are always there,” Orr said.
Data through Oct. 3 from the state health department shows a slow decrease in the number of deaths and cases of COVID-19 in Desoto County.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Steve Threlkeld says church leaders hosting in-person services must keep a close eye on case numbers and be prepared to cancel services.
“We have to be careful because the amount of community transmission is going to have a lot to determine about how safe gatherings are,” said Threlkeld, with Baptist Memorial Healthcare.
Orr says they’re asking church members in at-risk categories to continue watching the virtual service for now.
“For those that fall in those vulnerable classes, we are saying 'hey you won’t miss anything,” Orr said.
Brown Missionary Baptist Church is hosting their first in-person service this Saturday night at 6.