ROCHESTER, Minn. - On Friday, President Donald Trump declared places of worship essential. He'd like to see churches open as early as Memorial Day Weekend, and says he'll override governors who oppose the order.
The CDC released suggested guidelines for reopening religious institutions, including using face coverings; holding services in large areas or outdoors; frequent cleaning; social distancing; and decreasing singing, chanting, and reciting. The CDC's guidelines do not mandate places of worship open, but are providing leeway for places of worship to make their own decisions.
Despite Trump's declaration, two Southeastern Minnesota churches do not foresee reopening their sanctuaries until further notice. "We believe churches are essential, which is why we never stopped meeting online and sharing worship experiences through video. We don't, however, believe that worship inside our building is essential right now," says Pastor Nissa Peterson of Chatfield Lutheran Church. "We are dedicated to loving and serving our neighbors- and right now that looks like not being in the sanctuary together. We will meet in person as it is declared safe by our state leaders and local health authorities."
Pastor Eric-Carl Gentes of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester says he'd love to reopen, but's not safe to do so. "We're not able to sing together, we're not able to share in communion they way we're used to, we're not able to share the peace and just enjoy each other's company, and that's been really hard on everybody and there's a great need and desire to just get back to that, but we have made the decision that no matter how much we want that, it's not prudent, it's not wise to do that. That doesn't make the pain go away, and that's tough."
The two churches will continue to worship virtually. On Friday, Chatfield Lutheran Church held two prayer meetings over Zoom for congregates.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations opposes the call to open places of worship and is unlikely to change its restrictions despite the new guidance.